Arianna Huffington, born Ariadne-Anna Stasinopoulous, grew up in Greece and England to a family of modest means. She attended Cambridge University on a scholarship. From there, she moved to New York City in 1980 and wrote two popular biographies, one on Pablo Picasso and the other on Maria Callas.
In 1986, she married Michael Huffington who was involved in the oil business and went on to become a Republican Representative for California. After the couple’s divorce in 1997, Arianna Huffington, who kept her married name, shifted her view of politics to more left wing ideologies.
Her popularity soared in 2005 when she founded The Huffington Post, an online publication. Although she did not have a media background, investors saw her as successful in that she was able to bring all types of people together and was very charismatic. In 2011, Ms. Huffington sold The Huffington Post to AOL after becoming friends with the CEO of AOL, Tim Armstrong. Despite many board members insisting that The Huffington Post become a public company, Ms. Huffington convinced members that selling to AOL or $315 million was the better plan. Fred Harman, a partner at Oak Investment Partners, which invested in The Huffington Post said of Huffington, “she sows the seeds of trust and makes you feel her interests are aligned with yours. When you get down to making decisions, you can focus on how persuasive she is.”
In 2012, Huffington met the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, and the two discussed Uber’s potential. In 2016, Huffington joined Uber’s board of directors. She helped the company’s image a lot and showed a softer side of Mr. Kalanick. “Her guidance has been invaluable to me personally over the years, and I know that in this new role she’ll help take Uber to the next level,” Mr. Kalanick stated of Huffington.
She has been crucial in addressing Uber’s workplace scandals and trying to improve management at the company. After speaking to the board this month and claiming shaving one woman on a board often led to more women joining. A male board member, David Bonderman responded, “actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.” Mr. Bonderman resigned a few hours after making his sexist comment showing that Uber will no longer tolerate such behavior.
Ms. Huffington has been crucial in bringing women into Uber’s leadership. In April, she had dinner with Wan Ling Martello, the head of Nestle in Asia. Huffington was impressed with Martello’s account of a food recall that Nestle had and her attempts to salvage and recover from the event. Huffington asked Martello if she would be interested in working at Uber. Two months later, Ms. Martello was placed on the board.
In January, Ms. Huffington also met Bozoma A. Saint John, an Apple executive, at a dinner party. The two got along well and Ms. Saint John invited Ms. Huffington to her birthday party. In March, Ms. Huffington asked Ms. Saint John about Uber and the Apple executive shared her ideas on how to give Uber a more human story. Huffington then arranged a meeting between Saint John and Mr. Kalanick at her home in April and the two talked for eight hours. After leaving Apple last month, Ms. Saint John has joined Uber as their new chief brand officer. Ms. Saint John commented on Huffington’s leadership skills saying, “Arianna gave me all of the problems at Uber straight, no chaser. It’s the magic of what makes her so believable.”
Huffington commented in an interview that, “knowing how to deal with crises without being overwhelmed — keeping one’s head while people all around are losing theirs — is the most important leadership quality. In times of crisis, people often overreact and move into very dark places where they have a hard time seeing their way out.”
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