Uber Technologies' co-founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, said he will take an indefinite leave of absence from the company as it retools its culture and procedures following a series of scandals. What happens now?
The latest hit to a reeling Uber
Kalanick announced his leave of absence in an email sent to Uber employees on Tuesday, June 14, just as Uber announced some of the results of an extensive outside investigation into its corporate culture.
That investigation, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, found that Uber's culture fostered a toxic work environment and recommended a sweeping series of changes. Uber has been rocked by a series of allegations that have pointed to a work environment in which sexism, sexual harassment, and intimidation of people inside and outside the company were common. It has also been rocked by a loss of talent: Many key executives have left the company since the beginning of the year.
Uber's board of directors met for several hours on Sunday to discuss the Holder report and the changes it recommended. On Monday, Uber dismissed its chief business officer, Emil Michael, a close confidant of Kalanick's, reportedly as a result of findings made by Holder's team.
What Kalanick said about his leave of absence
Kalanick's decision to take a leave of absence is almost certainly a response to pressure from Uber's board of directors. In his email to Uber employees, Kalanick said -- while making reference to the need to create an "Uber 2.0" -- that the recent death of his mother was also a factor in his decision to step away:
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.
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.
(The Wall Street Journal published the text of Kalanick's email to Uber employees.)
Kalanick didn't say how long he plans to be away from Uber:
It's hard to put a timeline on this-it may be shorter or longer than we might expect.
What's next for Uber?
A lot of rebuilding. In addition to Michael, the company has lost a slew of key leaders in recent weeks, including its chief financial officer and executives leading its product, engineering, marketing, communications, and self-driving vehicle teams. All of those roles will need to be filled.
Uber will also begin implementing the recommendations from Holder's report. Among them: New standards for performance reviews, a revamp of Uber's stated corporate values to emphasize collaboration over combative and aggressive individual behavior, and the appointment of a Chief Diversity Officer, a new role.
Uber is also facing a massive lawsuit filed by Alphabet's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Waymo self-driving subsidiary that alleges that a now-departed Uber executive stole several of Waymo's technology secrets.
And as always, it's facing pressure from investors to deliver on its lofty $68 billion valuation. That pressure will be especially intense as Uber works to get itself on course.
Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. John Rosevear has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A and C shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.