The never-ending scandals at Uber have reached a point of reckoning and according to multiple reports, the ride-sharing startup’s board will be making some major decisions today. Along with a review of the long-in-the-works report on harassment, it will reportedly consider a leave of absence for Travis Kalanick and a top executive is expected to resign on Monday.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder has been working on a probe of Uber’s culture since February and his final report is being considered by the company’s board of directors today. Over 20 employees have already been fired in a move that was widely perceived as an attempt to show action before the potentially damaging findings in the report are revealed.
Eric Alexander, Uber’s president of business in the Asia Pacific region, was seperately dismissed last week for his involvement in obtaining medical records of a woman in India who claimed that an Uber driver raped her. Kalanick was well aware of Alexander’s behavior according to Recode, and chose to do nothing until reports appeared in the press. And that’s all just a small sampling of the turmoil that has existed at the company from the beginning and only grown worse in recent months. Now, the board of directors has to make a decision on how to responsibly manage the structure of a company that’s privately valued at almost $70 billion.
The Wall Street Journal reports that chief business officer Emil Michael plans to resign as early as Monday. Michael is considered second in command and is one of Kalanick’s closest friends. Uber’s general counsel and some board members recommended months ago that Michael step away from the company until Holder’s report was complete but he insisted on staying.
According to sources speaking with the New York Times, the question of whether Kalanick should take a leave of absence rests in the hands of Garrett Camp, Uber’s chairman, and board member Ryan Graves. Uber currently has nine board members and seven hold super-voting shares that give them more power. The Times reports that these two members are considered the potential swing votes. J. William Gurley and David Bonderman, two independent board members, are said to already be worried about Kalanick’s management.
The idea of a leave of absence isn’t only related to the various scandals at Uber. Kalanick’s mother tragically died in a boating accident in May. With the company facing a turning point and Kalanick needing to spend time with family, a temporary leave could make sense. Of course, the next problem would be finding a replacement.
Even if no changes are made to executive leadership, the results of Holder’s investigation have to be considered in today’s meeting. Uber has had over 200 employees file complaints. If the board makes no major changes, the uncertainty that’s toxic to investors will only grow. It’s not just an issue of capital, the company’s asshole reputation makes it hard to recruit top talent, and its treatment of drivers makes it more difficult to get people behind the wheel. This week could prove to be the most consequential in the history of the company.
Update 6/12/2017: According to the New York Times, Emil Michael left Uber this morning, apparently upon the recommendation of the Holder report. It’s currently unclear whether he resigned or was fired:
“Uber has a long way to go to achieve all that it can and I am looking forward to seeing what you accomplish in the years ahead,” Mr. Michael said in his departure note to employees.