Uber targeting titans of industry in CEO search
SAN FRANCISCO • Uber Technologies Inc. has set its sights on the business world’s most seasoned chief executives to fill the leadership vacuum left by the departure of co-founder Travis Kalanick. Candidates for Uber CEO, including Jeffrey Immelt, must be capable of restoring confidence in the ride-hailing company after months of controversy.
Immelt, the outgoing CEO of General Electric Co., is on a shortlist of fewer than six candidates to run Uber and prepare the business for an initial public offering, people familiar with the matter said. The company has been moving to narrow the list and name a successor to Kalanick, who was ousted under pressure from some of the company’s major investors last month. Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., had also been under consideration, but she publicly withdrew her name Thursday night.
Uber’s board met Thursday night to discuss the search and other issues, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified. The San Francisco-based company hopes to name a successor to Kalanick by early September. GE and Uber declined to comment.
Immelt, 61, is scheduled to step down next week from the CEO position at GE that he’s held since 2001. John Flannery, a 30-year GE veteran, will take over, with Immelt remaining chairman until the end of the year.
Immelt embraced Silicon Valley in recent years, with the launch of a digital division in 2015. He has tried to bring startup strategies to the manufacturing behemoth.But GE’s shares fell by about a third during his tenure. While Immelt was praised for reshaping the manufacturer, he faced criticism for cutting shareholder dividends in 2009 and overpaying for some acquisitions.
Uber’s new chief will inherit a long list of challenges. Uber’s fiercely capitalistic, Ayn Randian sensibilities created a brand that’s hard to love and gave opportunities to more approachable alternatives, such as rival Lyft Inc. Uber went through an internal crisis this year after allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination by employees. The company fired more than 20 workers as a result. The U.S. Justice Department has introduced a separate probe into Uber’s use of software called Greyball to help drivers evade law enforcement officials.