Is Uber’s CEO About to Go on a Forced Leave of Absence?

June 12, 2017 - 2 minutes read

It does not matter that Uber is worth something like $70 billion — just about everyone in tech agrees that something has to be done to change the ride-hailing startup’s poisonous corporate culture. At this point, it’d take a whole book to recap the company’s tempestuous, controversy-laden year (and I’m sure somebody is already in the process of writing it), but many Android app developers believe that Uber’s bullish CEO Travis Kalanick is the root of the problem. And now it appears as if some of the members of its own board may agree.

Reports broke on Sunday that Uber’s board of directors is considering putting Kalanick on a three month leave of absence. This could be partially a compassionate move, giving the hard-driving CEO a break to grieve after his mother’s unfortunate death in a boating accident. But it is more likely meant as a move to right the ship. The company already let 20 employees and an executive go last week, and warned many more employees. This Tuesday, the board is expecting a report from former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and his law firm that will detail their findings on Uber’s culture. It appears as if the board is preparing already for a massive overhaul, something that won’t surprise any Android app developers who have been keeping up with the news.

The board is also allegedly considering firing Emil Michaels, senior vice president of business and one of Kalanick’s most cherished allies, with some reports suggesting that Michaels would essentially fall on his sword to save the CEO. But it would be very difficult to scrap Kalanick given the founder-friendly structure of the board. Besides, many of Uber’s board members still stand by Kalanick, even as investors grow increasingly squeamish over the constant onslaught of bad news pouring out of the company. Can Uber seize this moment as an opportunity to show other Silicon Valley startups the error of their ways by forging a more progressive path moving forward? Or will it continue to make the same mistakes? Toronto Android app developers will be taking notes as Uber’s board chooses how to act on Holder’s report.

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