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Public affairs executive Gossett set to join Airbnb

Kelley Gossett Chris Morris for The Boston Globe

A friend of Kelley Gossett’s once told her there are two kinds of people: those who enjoy a structured, zoo-like setting, and those who thrive in the jungle.

Gossett (below), chooses the jungle over the zoo. That friend, Liam Kerr, saw that trait firsthand in 2015 when they worked with Chris Dempsey to lead No Boston Olympics. They battled against Boston’s power brokers to stop the 2024 Summer Games from coming here.

Three years ago, she joined Uber to handle public affairs work for New England. Gossett played a key role in ensuring the controversial ride-hailing service could establish regulations across New England, legitimizing the industry.


Now, Gossett’s “jungle” is about to get considerably larger. She joins Airbnb on March 18, overseeing public affairs for the home-sharing company’s markets in the Northeast, Chicago, and the Mid-Atlantic states.

Like Uber, Airbnb has made some enemies. In San Francisco-based Airbnb’s case, those foes emerged in the hotel industry and in big-city neighborhoods where many worry about the company’s impact on the rental housing stock.

“I’m much more comfortable with the jungle: always on, high octane, target on your back, make your case,” Gossett says. “I thrive off that adrenaline.”

The Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill in December to impose taxes and other requirements on short-term rentals. Gossett will help the company navigate the regulatory process as the Baker administration develops new rules for home-sharing as a result of the legislation.

Another possible item on her to-do list: Airbnb could launch a ballot question in Washington, D.C., to overturn new rules there.

“We have a lot of fires, if you will, but we’re a little more established than we were a few years ago,” Gossett says.

Gossett plans to stay in Boston, although Airbnb doesn’t have an office here (at least not yet).


She was once told she would never work again in this town because of her opposition to Boston 2024. She definitely proved that person wrong. — JON CHESTO

Delta’s Bastian finds attentive audience

Delta Air Lines is the fastest growing carrier, on a percentage basis, at Logan Airport. So you can’t blame the crowd at the Harvard Club for sitting in rapt attention last Tuesday, listening to what Delta chief executive Ed Bastian had to say.

About 150 people attended the event, hosted by the Harvard Business School Association of Boston. Bastian fielded questions from Larry Gulko, a local brand strategist, in a fireside-chat format.

Gulko asked Bastian about the company’s tagline, “Keep Climbing,” a promise to customers that the airline would improve after emerging from bankruptcy. Delta marketers recently approached Bastian about dropping the slogan, and he said he threw them out of his office. Continued improvement is crucial. “I said, ‘you are never bringing that idea to me as long as I’m in the chair,’ ” Bastian recalled. “We’re always going to keep climbing.”

Working to revive Delta might not have been his hardest challenge. Finishing the New York Marathon last fall, he said, was the “toughest fight” he has endured. He raised $2 million for childhood cancer research while racking up some medical bills of his own. “As a result of that, my leg is so messed up my doctor said, ‘The fact you are still walking is a miracle,’ ” Bastian said.

Bastian also touched on why he usually flies coach. It sends a message to flight crews: All of Delta’s customers are important. Because he appears in the airline’s safety video, Bastian frequently gets noticed by travelers.


Delta is adding several new destinations out of Logan this year, an expansion that enables the Atlanta airline to control all of Terminal A. The $500 million terminal was deliberately built with Delta in mind. When Southwest moves to Terminal B this summer, its five gates will go to Delta. “It’s something that has always bugged me, that we‘ve built this beautiful facility and we [had] given it to others to operate,” Bastian said. — JON CHESTO

Shawmut hires top operating officer

When Les Hiscoe ascended to the chief executive job at Shawmut Design and Construction four years ago, he eliminated his old position of chief operating officer. He wanted his top team members reporting directly to him. But now, Hiscoe is bringing the chief operating officer job back to Shawmut. The reason? The construction contractor’s meteoric rise requires it.

Four years ago, the company generated nearly $1 billion in revenue and employed about 950 people. In 2019, revenue is expected to be $1.5 billion. The workforce, meanwhile, has grown to about 1,400 people.

Hiscoe’s new number two, Reza Amirkhalili, started on Monday. Hiscoe hired the construction industry veteran from Faithful + Gould, a project management firm.

Among Amirkhalili’s goals: ensuring expertise is shared among all nine of Shawmut’s offices.

“The time was right for a COO,” Hiscoe says. “I’m thrilled to get someone like [Reza], with his kind of experience.”


Shawmut is based in the South End. But Hiscoe lives in New York and Amirkhalili plans to move there from Washington, D.C. Hiscoe does have an apartment near the Boston office, though, and both say they will spend part of each week in Boston.

Hiscoe says he also expects to spend significant time in the firm’s Los Angeles office, where revenue tripled during the past two years.

Hiscoe plans to be at Fenway Park for Opening Day. He grew up in New Hampshire, so he says his sports loyalties are with the Boston teams, “much to the chagrin of our other offices, particularly the LA office.” — JON CHESTO

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