Travis Kalanick is taking a leave of absence from Uber

The ride-hailing startup’s co-founder and CEO hands over his duties to a committee as Uber struggles with a sexism scandal

Travis Kalanick is taking a leave of absence from Uber

Photo credit: Joe Seer/

Entrepreneurs always put their mark on the startups they front, something that’s exemplified by the leadership of Travis Kalanick, co-founder and CEO of Uber. But the company may have to find a temporary replacement now that he’s taking a leave of absence for a non-determined period of time.

The announcement comes after Kalanick’s mother died in a tragic boat accident in May. In an email to his team, he said: “For the last eight years my life has always been about Uber. Recent events have brought home for me that people are more important than work and that I need to take some time off of the day-to-day to grieve my mother, whom I buried on Friday, to reflect, to work on myself and to focus on building out a world-class leadership team.” While he’s away, a management committee will run Uber.

Kalanick’s leave of absence comes at a time when the tech giant is facing allegations of having a sexist culture. In a bid to tackle its tarnished reputation, Uber has hired the former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder. In his report, Holder recommended more oversight of the company, which will see some of the CEO’s responsibilities being shouldered by a COO – who’s yet to be hired. Other suggestions include rewriting Uber’s cultural values, prohibiting intimate relationships between employees and reducing alcohol consumption at work events. On Sunday, the board unanimously voted to approve the recommendations.

Commenting on the sexism scandal, Kalanick said: “The ultimate responsibility, for where we’ve gotten and how we’ve gotten here rests on my shoulders. There is of course much to be proud of but there is much to improve. For Uber 2.0 to succeed there is nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team. But if we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve.”

But while Kalanick and Uber are expressing a willingness to clean up their act, it seems as if not everyone got the memo. This became abundantly clear during an event on Tuesday where board members took to the stage to explain how the tech giant will deal with the scandals. Things got awkward when Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post and one of the board members, announced that another female would join the board. Commenting on the new hire, she said that “a lot of data that shows when there’s one woman on the board it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on the board”. According to a recording obtained by Yahoo Finance, David Bonderman, another board member, then quipped: “Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.” He later apologised for his remark and resigned from the board, Reuters reported.

And given the fact that the company is still fighting a legal battle with Alphabet’s Waymo about its self-driving car division, clearly there are more twists and turns to come in Uber’s drama.

Eric Johansson
Eric Johansson

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