Just a few weeks after Away co-founder Steph Korey stepped down from her post as CEO after employee complaints about working conditions, the DTC luggage brand has announced that she’ll return to the top spot. Only this time, Korey will be sharing the chief executive role with Stuart Haselden.
The appointment of Haselden, the former Lululemon COO, to the chief executive role at Away came just days after The Verge published a damning report on Dec. 5 about workplace culture at the company. The brand said Haselden had been pegged for the role prior to the Verge piece, which painted a bleak picture of a toxic environment at Away, led and enforced by Korey. The report included several leaked screenshots of emails and Slack messages sent to the team by Korey, personally and at her behest, prohibiting employees from taking vacations or working from home, and publicly shaming others for mistakes.
In response to the negative press that Korey and the company received following the article’s publishing, Korey apologized for her behavior and Away announced on Dec. 9 that she’d be stepping aside to allow Haselden to take over as CEO on Jan. 13. Korey was to remain on the board as executive chairwoman.
But in a morning Slack message to the team today, which a spokesperson for Away provided to Adweek, Korey said this restructuring had been “misinterpreted in the media” as her departure from Away, which she didn’t intend. To clear things up, Korey said she’ll serve as co-CEO alongside Haselden.
The article in The Verge “unleashed a social media mob,” Korey said, with reporting that “fundamentally misrepresented our company.”
Korey also announced that Away has hired Libby Locke, the lawyer who won a defamation case on behalf of the University of Virginia against Rolling Stone magazine for a story about a supposed sexual assault case. Away is planning to make a decision regarding legal steps pending The Verge’s response to Away’s demands for retractions and corrections.
“The Verge’s false reporting is some of the worst journalism I’ve seen since Rolling Stone’s article on a fabricated gang rape at UVA,” Locke said. She added that the coverage consisted of “hit pieces filled with lies and distortions designed to damage Away’s reputation.”
Founded in 2015 by Korey and her former Warby Parker colleague Jen Rubio, Away and its sleek hard-shell suitcases featuring a built-in phone charging battery led to a quick rise in the company’s popularity among celebrities and influencers. The company was valued at $1.4 billion last May, and raised $100 million in a Series D investment led by Wellington Management.
“In just four years, Steph and Jen have created a company on an unparalleled growth trajectory,” said Away board director Ludwig Ensthaler. “We’re thrilled to welcome Stuart,” he continued, saying that Haselden, alongside Korey and Rubio, make up “the ideal team to lead Away as the company continues its rapid expansion.”