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Airbnb Hires Ex-Mayors to Advise on Pressure From City Governments

The room-rental website creates an advisory board including former mayors of Philadelphia and Rome as it faces a coordinated effort from cities around the world.

Airbnb Inc. is recruiting a set of former mayors to help the home-rental company navigate its ongoing challenges with regulators at the city level.

The company said Friday it has formed an advisory council of four former mayors from Houston, Philadelphia, Rome, and Adelaide, Australia. It hopes to add more mayors, especially from Asia, Latin America, and other regions.

As Airbnb has expanded across the globe since its founding in 2008, its most ferocious fights have been with city governments, often over taxes and Airbnb's effect on a region's housing supply and prices. Three U.S. senators attempted to elevate the issues to a national level last week, when they sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking the regulator to probe the industry.

The ex-mayors on Airbnb's advisory board will likely meet quarterly and receive compensation for their work, said Christopher Nulty, a spokesman for the company. Airbnb hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as an adviser on Wednesday focusing on strengthening corporate policies around racism and other discrimination on the site.

As Airbnb builds up its defenses, the company faces pressure from a coordinated effort led by mayors in several cities around the world. Bloomberg reported last month that current mayors from Paris, New York, Seoul, and other cities are working together to produce a rule book for dealing with Airbnb, Uber Technologies Inc., and other technology tools shaping their economies. Airbnb sued its hometown, San Francisco, last month in response to the recently passed city legislation requiring Airbnb to police who uses its site or face fines.

The members of Airbnb's mayoral advisory board include Houston's Annise Parker, Philadelphia's Michael Nutter, Rome's Francesco Rutelli, and Adelaide's Stephen Yarwood. Airbnb plans to call on those advisers to act as consultants on specific problems and as ambassadors to city governments. They will "review Airbnb policies, provide feedback on upcoming Airbnb products and initiatives, and provide Airbnb with valuable insights gained from years leading some of the world’s greatest cities," the company said in a statement.

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