Uber CEO resigns: Kalanick has been given a ticket to ride

21 Jun 2017

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Image: Joe Seer/Shutterstock

Travis Kalanick is out, as shareholder revolt made it untenable for the CEO to remain at Uber.

Travis Kalanick’s departure as CEO of Uber ends a rough ride for the company that upended the global transport industry.

Kalanick founded Uber in 2009 and turned it into a transport colossus and poster child for digital disruption, with a valuation of $70bn.

‘I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than being distracted with another fight’

After hours of drama involving pressure from Uber’s top investors, including Benchmark, First Round, Lowercase, Menlo and Fidelity, Kalanick agreed to step down.

Only last week, he announced he was to take a leave of absence from the scandal-ridden company and would hand over key duties to executives. Kalanick also wanted time to grieve for his mother, who is understood to have passed away last month in a boating accident.

Uber’s investors demanded that the CEO step down immediately after delivering a letter to him in Chicago yesterday (20 June). He agreed, but will remain on Uber’s board of directors.

In a statement, the Uber board said that Kalanick “always put Uber first” and that his stepping down will give the company a chance to embrace a new chapter in its history.

Kalanick said in a statement: “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life, I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than being distracted with another fight.”

Toxic workplace culture

Investors will no doubt be hoping that his departure will end a period of high drama, which included shortcomings in the company’s workplace culture in the form of sexual harassment, discrimination and a plethora of scandals.

After a blog post from former employee Susan Fowler went viral in February, Uber had to come forward and comment on allegations of the suppression of sexual harassment claims across the company structure.

Uber had also had an intellectual property lawsuit from Google-owned Waymo on its hands as well as a federal inquiry into software tools that were allegedly used to sidestep law enforcement.

The company’s efforts to escape the toxic workplace label were not helped by statements made during a staff meeting to discuss culture last week, involving Arianna Huffington and board member and TPG partner David Bonderman.

Huffington was speaking about how one woman on a board often leads to more women joining a board. Bonderman responded: “Actually, what it shows is that it’s much likely to be more talking.”

Staff members were left aghast and Bonderman, who happens to also be the chairman of Irish-headquartered airline Ryanair, subsequently resigned to uphold the standards that Uber wants to adhere to.

The big question is: where does Uber want to go to next? And how effectively can it evolve into a new kind of company? Only time will tell.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Image: Joe Seer/Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years