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Uber picks Expedia head Dara Khosrowshahi as its new CEO

August 28, 2017 12:34 AM
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Khosrowshahi beat out HPE CEO Meg Whitman and GE chairman Jeff Immelt

Uber’s board of directors has picked Dara Khosrowshahi to be the company’s next CEO, according to Recode and the New York Times, filling the spot that was vacated by Travis Kalanick back in June. Khosrowshahi comes from Expedia where he has been CEO since 2005. The board voted throughout the weekend, and was choosing between Khosrowshahi and Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman.

The choice ends nearly two months of constant speculation, as well as reported meddling by Kalanick, who still maintains a seat on Uber’s board.

Whitman was thought to be the frontrunner over the weekend, and even reportedly made a presentation on Saturday, even though she had tweeted back in July that she was “not going anywhere” with respect to HPE. “So let me make this as clear as I can. I am fully committed to HPE and plan to remain the company's CEO,” she wrote then.

Uber’s board of directors had also considered (and according to many reports, heavily favored) GE chairman Jeff Immelt. But Immelt announced on Twitter Sunday morning that he had pulled himself out of the running. The New York Times’ Mike Isaac reported Immelt “didn’t have the votes,” while Recode’s Kara Swisher says that the GE chairman was turned off by the ongoing bickering between Uber’s biggest investors. (Earlier this month, Benchmark Capital — an early investor in Uber — sued Kalanick for “fraud, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty.” Another group of investors hit Benchmark back with a few nasty letters and a legal move of its own. The posturing has become its own sideshow.)

Kalanick has been the public face of Uber since its inception, and he’s remained CEO through a number of speed bumps and full-blown scandals. But the company’s exploding success on his watch — on top of the fact that he is Uber’s biggest shareholder and had close ties to the company’s board members, giving him sway on board votes — was enough to keep him buckled into the position during that turbulence.

It wasn’t until a group of major Uber investors demanded his resignation in June that the pugnacious CEO finally stepped down. Two of those people — venture capitalists at the investment firm Benchmark — gave Kalanick a letter titled “Moving Uber Forward” while he was in Chicago interviewing candidates to fill Uber’s numerous executive vacancies, according to a June report in the New York Times.

The letter was the culmination of a pressure that had been building since the beginning of 2017. It started when protests sprung up around the United States in response to Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. In particular, a protest at John F. Kennedy International airport in New York City saw the New York Taxi Workers alliance call on drivers to temporarily suspend passenger pickups in solidarity. Uber continued to serve the airport, and some 200,000 users around the world responded by deleting the app from their phones.

Kalanick quickly committed $3 million to a legal defense fund for drivers who may have been affected by the ban, but the damage to Uber’s (and Kalanick’s) already shaky image was done. Then came the rest of the year.

Three weeks later, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler published an astounding account of the sexism and sexual harassment that she witnessed and experienced during her time with the company. Kalanick responded by holding an all-hands meeting and enlisting former US Attorney General Eric Holder to lead an investigation into Fowler’s claims.

The problems spiraled as the year stretched on. Recode discovered that a top Uber executive had obtained the medical records of a woman who was raped by an Uber driver in India.

It was only after all this, as well as the problems at Uber in years past — threatening a journalist with a smear campaign, a massive legal fight against its drivers over whether they should be considered full-time employees, to name just a few — that Kalanick resigned. Now it’s up to Khosrowshahi to step into the void and try and give the company a lift.


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