After weeks of numerous issues plaguing Uber, the company’s board sees no immediate changes to take place at the top of its organization. During a conference call with the media on Tuesday, Uber board member Arianna Huffington expressed support for Travis Kalanick to remain at the helm of the on-demand ride-hailing service.
Questions have come up about his effectiveness as leader after multiple allegations of sexual harassment surfaced, along with video of Kalanick arguing with a driver, use of Greyballing to avoid authorities, and the departure of several executives, including the president of ridesharing, Jeff Jones. But in an effort to put any speculation to rest, Huffington said that “nothing has been addressed and we don’t think [Kalanick’s firing] will come up.” She also described questions about his leadership as “hypothetical.”
This could definitely change based on what comes out from the report set to be provided to a board subcommittee, on which Huffington serves, next month.
It seems that for now, the company believes Kalanick and Uber are inseparable. “It’s clear that both Uber and the whole ride-sharing industry wouldn’t be here without Travis,” Huffington remarked. And rather than discussing Kalanick’s fate, she and chief human resource officer Liane Hornsey, 11 weeks into her new job, highlighted that the company is focusing instead on bringing on a chief operating officer, someone who will help Kalanick be a better leader and also a partner. The COO search is so important to Uber that it’s the reason given for why Kalanick wasn’t able to attend the call with reporters.
But would it even be possible to oust Kalanick? According to The Information (subscription required), he and his allies, cofounder Garrett Camp and former CEO Ryan Graves, control a majority of shareholder voting power, so it would take a concerted effort and cajoling to achieve his removal. Until there’s credible evidence to warrant such action, Uber is standing by its cofounder and current CEO, relying on his vision to help grow the company. And one way to advance along its path is to bring in a COO who can help Uber mature.
“Travis is interested in a true partnership,” Huffington explained. “It’s why he said during the search for a COO is a partner to help him write Uber’s next chapter…that’s what the quality of he, the board, and the search firm are looking for: Real operational abilities…”
While there have been reports suggesting some of the candidates in the running for COO are all males, Huffington fought back, saying that there are women she has interviewed in the process. However, no specific names were provided.