Khosrowshahi takes the reins at Uber
‘This company has to change,’ new CEO says at first meeting
Uber started a new ride Wednesday, as incoming CEO Dara Khosrowshahi took over from co-founder Travis Kalanick at an all-hands headquarters meeting.
In audio leaked to Yahoo, a subdued Kalanick can be heard haltingly reciting Khosrowshahi’s résumé — born in Tehran, emigrated to New York’s Westchester County at age 9, educated at Brown University, star at Expedia.
“So Uber’s next chapter begins today,” Kalanick says. “And we have an inspiring leader to take us there. His name is Dara. Let’s clap.”
While Expedia’s outgoing CEO pledged to maintain the corporate drive for which Uber, often controversially, became known, the 48-year-old also vowed to address the toxic cultural issues that rocked the company this year.
“This company has to change,” Khosrowshahi said, according to a tweet posted by Uber’s communications team. “What got us here is not what’s going to get us to the next level.”
Khosrowshahi, who addressed staffers in conversation with Uber board member and Kalanick supporter Arianna Huffington, added that the company’s legacy of sexism and aggressiveness as outlined in Susan Fowler’s explosive February blog post had to be changed at a grass-roots level.
“If culture is pushed top down, then people don’t believe in it,” he said, according to an Uber tweet. “Culture is written bottoms up.”
Another tweet indicated that Khosrowshahi wants to bring in a chairman who can serve as his “partner at the board level.” Uber’s myriad issues include recent board infighting that affected the CEO search.
Uber investor Benchmark Cap- ital, which has a seat on the board, is suing Kalanick for mismanagement. On Wednesday, a judge ruled in Kalanick’s favor that the dispute needs to be resolved through arbitration and not a trial.
Khosrowshahi also is likely to take advantage of multiple Csuite openings to create an inner circle capable of executing his marching orders for the ridesharing company.
The vacancies include chief operating officer, chief marketing officer and chief financial officer. The last of these is likely to be a priority for Khosrowshahi, who before taking the reins at Expedia in 2005 served as CFO of Barry Diller’s IAC Travel, which bought Expedia in 2003.
Khosrowshahi’s close collaborator at Expedia, CFO Mark Okerstrom, was promoted Wednesday to chief executive of the online travel company.
The all-hands meeting at Uber was a private event. But reports from those attending sketched out a few salient details.
Khosrowshahi believes privately-held Uber, whose $70 billion valuation has taken a hit of late, should go public in “18 to 36 months,” reported The Information’s Amir Efrati, citing a source at the meeting. Khosrowshahi also said Uber needs to “stabilize” and then decide “if we narrow the focus or continue with big bets, and which ones,” according to the source. The new CEO will start work Tuesday.
Efrati also tweeted out a group photo from the event, showing a smiling Khosrowshahi — decked out in a black Uber T-shirt — standing next to Huffington and Kalanick.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is now likely to focus on filling multiple C-suite openings, including the CFO spot.