In the most inevitable shock of the day, Uber has officially announced that founder and CEO Travis Kalanick will take a leave of absence from the company effective immediately.
Uber Technologies Inc. Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick told staff he plans to take a leave of absence, without disclosing a return date. The company will strip him of some duties and appoint an independent chair to limit his influence after a slew of scandals, according to an advance copy of a report prepared for the board.
To say that Kalanick needs a break is something of a massive fucking understatement. His leadership of the company he founded has verged into a stylistic management valley that puts him somewhere between Jordan Belfort and Caligula. From way-too-publicly jumping on and off Trump's CEO council, to being caught on tape berating an Uber driver for daring to criticize him, to hiding behind Arianna Huffington when reports of widespread misogyny within Uber hit the news, and all the other shit in between, Travis took an already poor reputation and just fucking shredded it.
Sure, we all knew that Kalanick was Silicon Valley's chief executive bro-fficer nonpareil, but that wasn't too hard to stomach when he was raising illogical amounts of venture capital, creating some jobs and his worst behavior was screwing Carnegie Mellon out of robotics professors. Uber was a dynamic and fascinating baby monster, a new kind of American business that was literally synonymous with the on-demand economy. So when the goofy and quasi-douchey guy who started it said dumb shit like "Boob-er," it was easy to write it off as just a nouveau riche nerd feeling himself. It became harder every time that Uber aggressively pushed into new territory and more difficult still when Kalanick spoke to the media or reports leaked out revealing his rather "unique" way of managing a growing company.
But with the recent allegations surfacing from former employees that Uber's corporate culture was a hotbed for sexual harassment, a reality that was not helped along by the subsequent leak of a 2013 email titled "The Miami Letter" in which Kalanick pre-approved bacchanalia-like behavior during a company "retreat" to Miami. With the glare of the spotlight impossible to ignore, Kalanick hired Eric Holder to investigate him and put Uber board member Arianna Huffington in the line of media fire to protect him.
Weeks later, with many senior people having quit and after a separate report into bad behavior claimed 20 more scalps within Uber corporate, Holder's report is now public and Travis' most loyal deputy - the even more controversial head of business, Emil Michael - has been removed from the company. This morning, Travis woke up without a CFO, CTO, CMO, COO or SVP for business. Essentially, the C-Suite at Uber was an empty warren of beautiful office space where the only sounds to be heard were Kalanick meditating in a lactation room and Arianna Huffington snoring in a conference room. Elsewhere, employees read the Holder Report and wondered what was going to happen
The answer was to grow the fuck up with some new leadership at the helm:
At a staff meeting Tuesday, the company began conveying the results of a probe conducted by Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general who Uber hired to look into allegations of harassment, discrimination and an aggressive culture. The 47 recommendations include creating a board oversight committee, rewriting Uber’s cultural values, reducing alcohol use at work events, and prohibiting intimate relationships between employees and their bosses.
Upon Kalanick’s return, the board will move to diminish his role by giving some of the CEO’s job responsibilities to a chief operating officer -- a position Uber has been actively recruiting for but has yet to fill. This person would “act as a full partner with the CEO but focus on day-to-day operations, culture and institutions within Uber,” the report said.
Kalnick is finally doing the right thing and giving his company room to breathe from the caricature that he's become, but all the people at Uber care about right now, the ones in an all-hands meeting with Huffington and fellow board member Bill Gurley, is if any of this self-sacrifice will ultimately save Uber from itself.
Not a great start there, Uber 2.0