Nov 20, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Former Biden official Ron Klain to join Airbnb as chief legal officer


Ron Klain on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" in February. Photo: Gail Schulman/CBS via Getty Images

Airbnb will announce Monday that Ron Klain — former White House chief of staff, and one of Washington's best-connected Democrats — will join the company as chief legal officer on Jan. 1.

Why it matters: It's a surprise twist for the storied career of Klain, who remains a confidant of President Biden, with a big behind-the-scenes voice in his re-election campaign.

  • The move shows recruiting momentum and continuing innovation for Airbnb, which now has 4 million hosts in nearly every country.

What they're saying: Klain, 62, will report to Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, who says in a forthcoming release: "Ron is both a big-picture strategic thinker and a highly skilled operator, and I'm thrilled he'll be a close advisor."

  • "People have described Ron as one of the smartest people they've ever met, but more than his intelligence, he's known for his excellent judgment and his big heart," Chesky adds.
  • Klain says in the release: "I have always believed that travel is such an important part of creating connection and cultural understanding."

What's happening: Klain will leave O'Melveny & Myers, which he rejoined as a litigation partner after leaving the White House earlier this year. Klain tells Axios he wasn't looking to leave the firm, which he loves — he heard about the opening because Airbnb is a client.

  • "When I spent time with Brian and other senior folks at Airbnb, it was a 'can't say no' moment," he told Axios.
  • Klain says he'll continue supporting Biden "on my own time and of my own accord," but will no longer do TV appearances for the campaign.

Behind the scenes: Klain tells Axios that when he went to San Francisco to interview with Chesky and others, he stayed in a guest bedroom in Chesky's home that he lists on Airbnb.

  • "He's a fantastic host," Klain deadpanned.

Zoom in: Klain, an Indiana native who has represented numerous tech businesses in complex litigation, also was chief legal officer at Revolution, the venture capital firm started by AOL founder Steve Case.

  • A graduate of Georgetown and Harvard Law, he has more than four decades of experience in government and business.
  • Before becoming White House chief of staff, Klain was chief of staff to then-Vice President Biden. Klain became chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore at just 34 — the youngest chief of staff to a vice president.

Between the lines: Klain's new role is a legal job. Airbnb government relations is under Jay Carney — global head of policy and communications, and a former Klain colleague from the Obama White House.

Go deeper: Airbnb's CEO has a plan to make you love Airbnb again

Go deeper