In the wake of reports that Uber executives turned a blind eye to sexual harassment and other corporate misbehavior, the company’s board on Sunday moved to shake up the leadership of the ride-hailing service, ahead of the release of an investigation into its troubled culture.
Uber directors were weighing a three-month leave of absence for Travis Kalanick, the chief executive who built the start-up into a nearly $70 billion entity, according to NYTIMES
In addition, the board was discussing the possible departure of a top lieutenant, Emil Michael, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the discussions were confidential.
Uber Technologies Inc. has been rocked by accusations that its management has fostered a workplace environment where harassment, discrimination, and bullying are left unchecked.
The moves — if enacted — would scale back the involvement of Mr. Kalanick and strip him of an ally, a turnabout for a chief executive who had been hailed as an innovator and a role model. It would also plunge Uber, which has upended the transportation industry worldwide, into an uncertain period with no clear leader at a time when competitors are trying to capitalize on the company’s woes.
Mr. Kalanick himself proposed the idea of taking time off after a recent boating accident that killed his mother and sent his father to the hospital. Given those circumstances, Mr. Kalanick, who has worked nonstop since Uber’s founding in 2009, had told people he might need a break. Still, if he were to take leave, it could be perceived as a repudiation of the aggressiveness that he has brought to Uber.
The company has no COO, CFO, CMO or SVP of engineering and all of those vacancies are without accounting for the possible terminations that several sources suspect will happen as a result of the Holder report. In addition, several sources at Uber said attrition among the rank-and-file staff has spiked.
In other words, it is a big job for even an experienced exec and the cupboards are pretty bare at Uber.
But, among those who are left at the company, several people have suggested that Rachel Holt, the general manager of U.S. and Canada, could take over in the interim. Holt has been at the company since 2011, working her way up the ladder from a general manager of Washington D.C. These people did question whether she was equipped to run the whole company, however, due to her lack of experience in key areas.
Instead, one source said the board could decide to install a committee to manage the company rather than a single executive. Candidates for that committee include members of the A team — or Kalanick’s trusted insiders — like Andrew Macdonald, the regional manager for the Asia Pacific and Latin America and the head of product Daniel Graf. Other potential members are the company’s head of Europe, Middle East and Africa Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty and the company’s chief human resources officer Liane Hornsey.