Uber Says Changes Are Coming, With Executives' Fates Uncertain

Toby Manning
June 14, 2017

Uber's chief executive could be forced to take a leave of absence under changes being considered by the firm, reports say. It is possible that Mr Kalanick could take time off from Uber and then return to a role with less authority, or remain as chief executive but face more scrutiny, the Reuters news agency reported.

After a Sunday meeting that lasted more than six hours, a representative for Uber Technologies Inc.'s board said directors approved several changes, without providing clarity on the fates of Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick or his confidant and head of business, Emil Michael.

A blog post by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, published in February, brought attention to the controversial culture allegedly rampant at the company.

Kalanick has been there defending the company he built, as the Times reported "in his own brash image", at every controversial turn - from evading law enforcement, to potentially violating consumers' privacy, to being slow to address sexual harassment and assaults of female passengers, to running sexist ads. One of the high-profile executives to be fired from the company was Uber's senior vice president of engineering, Amit Singhal.

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He lost his temper earlier this year in an argument with an Uber driver who was complaining about pay, and his comments laced with swearing were caught on video. "We do see sometimes a startup mentality in the early years of a company's growth where they have difficulty sometimes adjusting to being a huge enterprise", said Lisa Klerman, a USC law professor and employment law mediator.

Kalanick proposed the idea of taking time off after a boating accident last month that killed his mother and sent his father to the hospital. Now valued at close to $70bn (£55bn), it has fast become the world's most valuable start-up. There could be one more shoe to drop, involving its CEO, Travis Kalanick, whose status remains unclear. In the rest of the email, he advises employees against having sex with each other without proper consent or with those who aren't in the same chain of command, against drug use, drunk behavior and against talking to the press. And one of Michael's lieutenants, Eric Alexander, was sacked last week after reports emerged that he mishandled documents related to the rape of an Uber passenger in India.

A spokesman for the San Francisco ride-service firm confirmed that the board met with Holder and Tammy Albarrán, both partners with Covington & Burling, a law firm hired to investigate complaints of widespread sexual harassment and other deep-seated cultural problems at Uber.

Other reports by VgToday

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