In Depth

Who is Uber's new boss Dara Khosrowshahi?

Global firm's CEO is a high-flying Iranian-American with a PR crisis to fix and a predecessor who's still involved

The ride-hailing service Uber has a new chief executive in the form of Dara Khosrowshahi, former boss of the online travel giant Expedia.

Khosrowshahi was appointed by Uber's board on Sunday. The firm's embattled founder Travis Kalanick resigned as chief executive in June after months of bad headlines and scandal.

Who is Dara Khosrowshahi?

Uber's new CEO is a 48-year-old Iranian-American, who has lived "an extraordinary life of both hardship and influence", says Business Insider. Born to a wealthy family in Iran, he fled the country during the 1978 revolution when the family business – a large conglomerate – was seized. The family remained wealthy, however. After private school, followed by an engineering degree at an Ivy League university, Khosrowshahi worked in finance.

Where's the hardship in that?

When Khosrowshahi was 13, says Business Insider, his father returned home to Iran for business reasons. He was not allowed to leave the country to be with his family for six years.

What are the rest of his family up to?

There's no shortage of business acumen – or cash – among Khosrowshahi's relatives. His brother Kaveh is a managing director at exclusive investment bank – Allen & Co. His uncle Hassan is a billionaire who now lives in Canada. His twin cousins Ali and Hadi Partovi created MySpace, selling it for $20m (£15m) in 2009. 

So what's Khosrowshahi's latest challenge?

Uber is facing the most turbulent times in its short history, after a world-conquering rise. Kalanick's resignation, following pressure from investors, leaves a trail of sexism and bullying allegations at the firm, as well as disputes about the status of Uber's drivers, an inquiry in the US into the firm's use of software to hide drivers from US officials – and other scandals. Perhaps more significantly, Uber is not currently attempting to turn a profit.

Doesn't Uber make money?

The firm's core business "contributes more and more to the bottom line", says The Independent. But it's haemorrhaging "millions if not billions" on other projects, including developing autonomous cars and a food delivery service.

How much does it lose?

In the second quarter of this year, Uber lost $645m (£498m) – an improvement on the $991m (£765m) losses in the last quarter of 2016.

Is that a problem for Khosrowshahi?

Yes. Shareholders aren't impressed – they forced Kalanick out of his job. Khosrowshahi must now steer Uber into deciding "whether it's a grown-up company that will start building a sustainable, profitable business suitable for a public company, or if it's still in a teenage phase of spending like mad to push into every country and new area of business it can", says Bloomberg

Is it good news that Kalanick has gone?

The Uber founder has often seemed the company's worst enemy in terms of generating bad publicity. He made headlines when it emerged that he and two other executives had privately suggested that an accusation of rape by an Uber driver brought by a woman in India was bogus. He was also filmed in a foul-mouthed tirade against one of his own drivers who asked about pay and conditions. 

But Kalanick is far from out of the picture. No longer chief executive, he still controls three out of 11 seats on the firm's board.

Uber turns to Expedia boss to replace Travis Kalanick

29 August

The chief executive of Expedia has been chosen to revive the fortunes of Uber following months of chaos, as the ride-hailing app enters the most crucial period in its short history.

According to the New York Times, Uber's board voted unanimously on Sunday to offer the job to Dara Khosrowshahi, after a contentious search marred by boardroom spats.

The 48-year-old Iranian-American, who has led the travel company for 12 years, was a surprise appointment. He beat Meg Whitman, chief executive of HP Enterprise, and Jeff Immelt, the former boss of General Electric, for the job.

While he has yet to formally accept the offer, should he take up the reins Khosrowshahi "will have the difficult task of restoring Uber's fortunes, with its board deeply divided and its management ranks hollowed out", says the Financial Times.

The Guardian says the new boss will seek "to reform the company's workplace culture following accusations of sexual discrimination and harassment, recruit new executives including a chief financial officer and chief operating officer, and deal with numerous legal wrangles" including an intellectual property dispute with Waymo, Google's self-driving car spinoff.

On top of this, Khosrowshahi will also have to deal with the influence of former chief executive and co-founder Travis Kalanick who was forced to stand down in June following allegations of sexism and harassment. Kalanick still controls three board seats and a significant portion of shareholder votes.

The lengthy and messy fight over who should lead the company perfectly demonstrates the identity crisis within Uber, says Bloomberg. The company needs to decide "whether it's a grown-up company that will start building a sustainable, profitable business suitable for a public company, or if it's still in a teenage phase of spending like mad to push into every country and new area of business it can".

Uber boss Kalanick takes indefinite leave of absence

14 June

Uber's controversial co-founder and chief executive has announced he will be taking an indefinite leave of absence as the company tries to move on from a series of damaging scandals over its culture.

The announcement follows an explosive blog published by a female employee in February that accused the firm of sexism and sexual harassment. This led to a formal review of working practices at Uber that identified 217 potential cases of wrongdoing and led to 20 staff being fired.

Now Travis Kalanick – "a man who, rightly or wrongly, now symbolises what people feel is the very worst of tech 'bro' culture," says the BBC – has stepped down. 

He said there was "nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team". 

Kalanick's comments give no prospective return date, but the BBC believes Uber's billionaire founder could return "in a diminished role".

Kalanick also said: "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."

Reports say that Kalanick recently lost his mother in a boating accident. This may have contributed to his decision.

Meanwhile a shake-up appears to be underway at Uber. At a meeting on Tuesday, Uber's management board voted in favour of a series of recommendations designed to improve its workplace culture.

But these plans were undermined by a sexist remark made at the meeting by David Bonderman, a director and founder of the private equity firm TPG Capital.

In response to fellow board member Arianna Huffington saying that her presence would attract more women to the executive team, Bonderman said: "Actually, what it shows is that it's much more likely to be more talking."

Since these remarks were made, Bonderman has stepped down, saying he didn't want to "create distraction as Uber works to build a culture of which we can be proud", reports The Guardian

Other scandals at the firm in recent months include Uber's apparent breaking of an airport taxi strike over Donald Trump's travel ban and a lawsuit over alleged intellectual property theft lodged by Google parent company Alphabet.

Executives who have left the firm include president Jeff Jones and public relations chief Rachel Whetstone. Asia-Pacific boss Eric Alexander and senior vice-president Emil Michael, who were implicated in a privacy breach relating to the medical records of a woman allegedly raped by an Uber driver in India, have also left the company.  

Liane Hornsey, Uber's HR chief, said: "While change does not happen overnight, we're committed to rebuilding trust with our employees, riders and drivers."

Uber fires 20 after review into harassment claims

7 June

Uber has fired 20 staff and put dozens more into training or on final warnings in an effort to draw a line under reports of widespread workplace harassment.

"Uber has been under fire over its treatment of women staff since a former employee wrote a scathing blog post about her experience," says the BBC.

"It led to two investigations and the uncovering of 215 complaints about harassment and other allegations."

Of the 215 complaints, which were independently reviewed by the law firm Perkins Coie, 100 were dismissed, but action was taken in 58. The remaining 57 cases remain under review.

Of the 58 cases taken forward, the Uber staff member accused of wrongdoing in 20 of these cases has been sacked by the firm. "Some of those fired held senior positions," the company said.

In a further seven cases the staff member has been placed on a final warning, while 31 staff members have been referred for further training.

The full nature of the claims in which action was taken is not known, but Uber has revealed that of the 215 complaints that were reviewed 54 related to discrimination, 48 to sexual harassment and 45 to "unprofessional behaviour".

Other cases involved allegations of bullying, general harassment, retaliation and physical security. There was also one claim for wrongful dismissal.

Alongside the details of the review, Uber has announced it has appointed "Eric Holder, who served as attorney general under former US president Barack Obama, to investigate the company's broader culture".

The ride-sharing app has also confirmed it will be hiring two new female executives: Frances Frei, a Harvard Business School professor who will serve as a senior vice president for leadership and strategy, and Bozoma Saint John, a former marketing executive at Apple who will be chief brand officer.

Uber will be hoping that it can move on from the controversy, which has come amid a tumultuous period for the company that has seen it criticised for "aggressive corporate tactics" and sued by Google owner Alphabet over allegedly "stolen" technology.

Uber has also been the subject of a popular campaign over its apparent breach of a taxi protest against US President Donald Trump's travel ban, which saw hundreds of thousands of users delete its app.

In recent months, several high profile executives have left the ride-sharing app. These include company president Jeff Jones who complained that the "beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber".

Embattled Uber loses another senior executive

12 April

Ride-sharing app Uber has another negative headline following the announcement that another senior executive has left the company.

Rachel Whetstone, head of public relations and communications, has quit after two years in the post, chief executive Travis Kalanick revealed in an email to staff yesterday. She will be replaced by her deputy, Jill Hazelbaker.

"No reason has been given for her resignation, though it follows months of turbulence at Uber," says the BBC.

Uber has been fighting legal battles around the world and controversies in its home market, including an apparent breach of a taxi strike during a protest at airports over Donald Trump travel ban in January.

"A campaign to '#deleteuber' is said to have cost the company hundreds of thousands of accounts, though it is hard to be sure of the genuine impact," adds the BBC.

Kalanick himself was criticised for joining an economic panel set up by Trump, while his company has also been embroiled in sexual harassment claims by a former engineer.

Whetstone's departure follows that of company president Jeff Jones, who quit last month after only six months in the job, and head of engineering Amit Singhal, who left after accusations of sexual harassment came to light.

However, both Uber and Whetstone say her departure is completely amicable.

Whetstone, who worked at Google until 2015, said: "I joined Uber because I love the product and that love is as strong today as it was when I booked my very first ride six years ago."

Kalanick attached a photo of the two of them on a recent hiking trip to his email and wrote: "I am looking forward to having her as an advisor for years to come."

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