Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Airbnb Hires General Counsel as It Faces Growing Legal Threats Globally

The role has taken on importance at on-demand startups as they engage in costly legal battles around the world.

Airbnb Inc. has added a new general counsel to help respond to the increasing number of legal threats facing the room-rental company as it expands globally. Rob Chesnut, a former senior vice president at EBay, fills the position left by Belinda Johnson, who was promoted to chief business affairs and legal officer last year.

The role of general counsel has taken on added importance at on-demand technology startups, such as Airbnb and Uber Technologies Inc., as the companies fight costly legal battles that threaten to alter their business models. Airbnb has sparred with governments over the taxes its hosts pay, and the company has set up offices in various tax havens. Airbnb has also been sued for the alleged misdeeds of its hosts, including one incident involving a hidden camera in a rental.

“Whenever you’ve got a business model that breaks new ground and challenges the status quo, it’s going to run up against laws that were passed long before the business model was ever conceived,” Chesnut said.

Chesnut recently served as an adviser to Uber, as well as to RelayRides Inc., which operates the Turo service that lets people rent out their cars. Airbnb said Chesnut, who worked at EBay until 2008 before joining online textbook rental company Chegg, has resigned his advisory roles.

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