Uber boss Kalan­ick’s fate is on the line

The Star Early Edition - - INTERNATIONAL - Joseph Menn and Heather Somerville

UBER Tech­nolo­gies’ board was to dis­cuss chief ex­ec­u­tive Travis Kalan­ick tem­po­rar­ily step­ping away from the em­bat­tled ride-hail­ing firm and con­sider sweep­ing changes to the com­pany’s man­age­ment prac­tices at a meet­ing yes­ter­day, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion.

The source said it is not clear that the board would make any de­ci­sion to change Kalan­ick’s role. The board was ex­pected to adopt a num­ber of in­ter­nal pol­icy and man­age­ment changes rec­om­mended by out­side at­tor­neys hired to in­ves­ti­gate sex­ual ha­rass­ment and the firm’s broader cul­ture. Out­side lawyers made no rec­om­men­da­tion about Kalan­ick.

The meet­ing, which Uber had not pub­li­cised, could be a piv­otal mo­ment for the world’s most valu­able ven­ture-backed pri­vate com­pany, which has up­ended the tightly reg­u­lated taxi in­dus­try in many coun­tries, but has run into le­gal trou­ble with a rough-and-tum­ble ap­proach to lo­cal reg­u­la­tions and the way it han­dles em­ploy­ees and drivers.

At yes­ter­day’s meet­ing, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter, the seven vot­ing mem­bers of Uber’s board, in­clud­ing Kalan­ick, were ex­pected to vote on rec­om­men­da­tions made by the law firm of for­mer US At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Eric Holder, which con­ducted a re­view of the com­pany’s poli­cies and cul­ture.

The re­view was launched in Fe­bru­ary after for­mer Uber en­gi­neer Susan Fowler pub­lished a blog post de­tail­ing what she de­scribed as sex­ual ha­rass­ment and the lack of a suitable re­sponse by se­nior man­agers. Fowler now works for dig­i­tal pay­ments com­pany Stripe.

Uber’s board is likely to tell em­ploy­ees and the pub­lic of its de­ci­sions by to­mor­row, one of the sources said.

An Uber spokesper­son had no com­ment. Nei­ther Kalan­ick nor Holder’s law firm, Cov­ing­ton & Burl­ing, im­me­di­ately re­sponded to re­quests for com­ment on Satur­day.

Kalan­ick has de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion as an abra­sive leader, and his ap­proach has rubbed off on his com­pany. The 40-year-old ex­ec­u­tive was cap­tured on video in Fe­bru­ary be­rat­ing an Uber driver.

Uber board mem­ber Ari­anna Huff­in­g­ton said in March that Kalan­ick needed to change his lead­er­ship style from that of a “scrappy en­trepreneur” to be more like a “leader of a major global com­pany.” The board has been look­ing for a chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer to help Kalan­ick run the com­pany since March.

The re­port was pre­pared by Holder and part­ner Tammy Al­bar­rán at Cov­ing­ton & Burl­ing. It comes shortly after an­other law firm, Perkins Coie, sub­mit­ted a sep­a­rate re­port on sex­ual ha­rass­ment and other em­ployee con­cerns at the com­pany.

Uber’s more than 1.5m drivers are clas­si­fied as in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors.

On Tues­day, Uber re­sponded to that re­port’s find­ings by say­ing it had fired 20 em­ploy­ees for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, and was in­creas­ing train­ing and adopt­ing new poli­cies. Uber said that re­port con­sid­ered 215 cases en­com­pass­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment, dis­crim­i­na­tion, un­pro­fes­sional be­hav­iour, bul­ly­ing and other em­ployee com­plaints.

San Fran­cisco-based Uber is val­ued at nearly $70 bil­lion (R903.62bn) but has yet to turn a profit.

Some of the rec­om­men­da­tions in Holder’s firm’s re­port would force greater con­trols on spend­ing, hu­man re­sources and other ar­eas where ex­ec­u­tives led by Kalan­ick have had a sur­pris­ing amount of au­ton­omy for a com­pany with more than 12 000 em­ploy­ees, one per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said. Uber’s more than 1.5 mil­lion drivers world­wide are clas­si­fied as in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors rather than em­ploy­ees.

Less clear is the fate of Kalan­ick, who with close al­lies has vot­ing con­trol of the com­pany. – Reuters

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.