Uber CEO Travis KalanickEnlarge Photo
To say it's been a rocky time for Uber recently is an understatement. Former president Jeff Jones quit the company after working there for just six months. Waymo is suing Uber over alleged theft of technology. CEO Travis Kalanick was caught berating one of his drivers. A female employee wrote a blog post that exposed a culture of sexual harassment. And there's the matter of a $708 million loss in the first quarter of 2017.
Now we have word, according to The New York Times, that Kalanick is taking a leave of absence.
The announcement came in an email to employees before a company meeting convened to discuss how this $70 billion ride-sharing ship is attempting to create sweeping reforms. In the email, Kalanick said he would take time off to work on himself and reflect on building a “world-class leadership team.” He gave no word on how long he would be away, but this feels very much like Gavin Belson on the HBO show "Silicon Valley" stepping onto his private jet to drift away and rediscover who he is.
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At the subsequent meeting, Uber released recommendations made by former attorney general Eric Holder on how the company could curtail sexual harassment and other executive wrongdoing. Yet the company is clearly far from heading down that reworked path as board member David Bonderman proved during the meeting with a sexist remark directed at fellow board member Arianna Huffington. Bonderman resigned from the board a few hours later.
Uber was founded by Kalanick back in 2009, along with Garrett Camp. It was Camp's idea and Kalanick gives him full credit. Kalanick was the main advisor at the beginning, as Camp built the company from an idea to the app and into a large company. Camp still serves as chairman.
Besides the issues on the business side, there are personal reasons as to why Kalanick would take some time away. In May, his mother and father were in a boating accident. Sadly, Travis' mother died as a result of the accident, and his father was injured.
As Kalanick steps away from the company he helped balloon into a giant, it will be interesting to see how it changes. His aggressive style of leadership has led to some serious internal issues for Uber, and that massive Q1 loss must weigh heavily on the minds of investors. Still, Uber is used by riders in more than 570 cities across the globe, employs in excess of 12,000 people, and is working its way into the world of autonomous ride-sharing options.