Steph Korey, the co-founder of Away, has stopped down as the company’s CEO following a damning investigation into a toxic corporate culture in the company. The popular luggage startup was exposed by The Verge, which has led to Korey’s removal.
Away has announced that Lululemon executive Stuart Haselden has been brought in as the new head of the company, with Korey taking a sideways move to executive chairman. Haselden will also immediately join the board of directors, where he will serve alongside Korey and her fellow cofounder Jen Rubio.
The Verge investigation had contacted 14 former employees of Away, who outlined a culture of bullying, described in the articles as “cutthroat”. Excessive demands were placed on workers, with long working hours and a general climate of bullying being unveiled by the investigation.
Rather than a response to damning criticism of its corporate culture, Away characterized the appointment of Haselden as being part of the company’s plan for long-term growth.
“With the immense growth of the Away brand, the complexities of our business have evolved as well. Stuart’s impressive track record in strategically scaling retail businesses and teams offers invaluable expertise as Away enters its next phase of growth,” Rubio commented, in a prepared statement.
Korey had previously apologized for her behavior, citing messages that were published by The Verge as being wholly inappropriate. Korey stated that she was “sincerely sorry” about the way that she had communicated with staff, and that she was “appalled” with the way she had interacted with Away employees.
Response to The Verge investigation, and the revelations about the corporate culture at Away, have been strong, with leaked documents making it clear that Korey regularly bullied members of staff via Slack channels. Further leaks also revealed that the company had informed employees to refrain from socially engaging with the article in any way.
Away discourages employees from emailing or DMing one another, instead requiring those who work for the company to participate in public Slack channels. With executives having implemented a culture in which employees were exposed to harsh criticism and public reprimand for small mistakes, it is clear that many felt belittled and bullied.
The response of Away has also been questioned in some quarters, particularly with regard to keeping Korey in the management loop. One former employee commented to The Verge that Korey “knows exactly who she’s hurt, and to just issue a ho-hum blanket apology now to the public, feels like it was done just to save face and slow down order returns that are coming in. It’s not right.”
Away was founded in 2015, with the company raising $31 million through financing. This was considered a triumph, with Away being one of the most strongly backed female-led startups, and the businesss thus being held up as a beacon by many.
Haselden will start his role as CEO of Away on January 13.