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The Biggest Question Facing Uber Technologies Now

By John Rosevear - Jun 14, 2017 at 6:06PM

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This definitely has to be resolved before an IPO.

There are a lot of big questions facing Uber Technologies in the wake of a devastating report on its internal culture. Perhaps the biggest: Given the number of executives who have left the company (voluntarily or not) since the beginning of the year, who will run the company?

CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick is on an indefinite leave of absence. He'll presumably return, but Uber has lost a lot of the leaders who might have stepped up in the interim.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick exiting a black car.

CEO Travis Kalanick is on an indefinite leave of absence. When he returns, he'll likely have a completely new management team. Image source: Uber Technologies. 

The list of open executive roles at Uber right now is staggering, all the more so because the people who held these senior-level roles all left the company in the last few months:

  • President: Jeff Jones, Uber's second-in-command, left in March. "The beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber," he told Recode.
  • SVP of engineering: Uber's senior vice president of engineering, Amit Singhal, was asked to resign in February after a reporter from Recode informed the company that Singhal had left a prior job at Google following a "credible" allegation of sexual harassment.
  • Chief financial officer: Uber has been without a CFO since Brent Callinicos stepped down from the role in 2015. The company announced last month that Gautam Gupta, who had been leading the company's finance team but hadn't been given the CFO title, will leave the company in July to join another start-up. 
  • Head of self driving research: Anthony Levandowski, formerly of the Google Self-Driving Car Project, was fired by Uber at the end of May. Levandowski has been at the center of a lawsuit filed by Google parent Alphabet ( GOOG 0.90% ) ( GOOGL 0.81% ) that alleges he took confidential technical data with him when he left Google to form a start-up. That start-up, called Otto, was acquired by Uber within a few months of its founding.
  • SVP of business: Emil Michael, a close confidante of Kalanick, left the company abruptly on Monday. His departure was one of the recommendations made to Uber's board in the wake of the investigation into Uber's culture conducted by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Filling those jobs with strong candidates will be a top priority, and a necessity if Uber is to get back on a growth path and gear up for an eventual public offering. Fortunately, a couple of the executive roles left open by departures this year have been filled:

  • SVP of public policy and communications: Rachel Whetstone, who had held the job for two years, left in April. She was replaced by her deputy, Jill Hazelbaker. 
  • Vice president of product and growth: Ed Baker resigned in March following allegations that he had been seen kissing an Uber employee at a company event. He was replaced on an acting basis by Daniel Graf.

And there are two new hires in Uber's executive suite, both filling newly created roles:

  • SVP of leadership and culture: Frances Frei, a Harvard Business School professor who has focused on workplace gender and diversity problems, was hired to fill this newly created role earlier this month.
  • Chief brand officer: Another newly created role, this one was filled by charismatic marketing executive Bozoma Saint John, who left Apple to take the job.

Long story short: With the exception of Kalanick when he returns, Uber's management team will have been completely overhauled since the beginning of the year. Those jobs need to be filled before the company can even think about an initial public offering.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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