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By Heather Somerville and Joseph Menn
SAN FRANCISCO, June 12 Uber Technologies Inc
Chief Executive Travis Kalanick is likely to take a
leave of absence from the troubled ride-hailing company, but no
final decision has yet been made, according to a source familiar
with the outcome of a Sunday board meeting.
Emil Michael, senior vice president and a close Kalanick
ally, has left the company, the source said.
At the Sunday meeting, the company's board adopted a series
of recommendations from the law firm of former U.S Attorney
General Eric Holder following a sprawling, multi-month
investigation into Uber's culture and practices, according to a
Uber will tell employees about the recommendations on
Tuesday, said the representative, who declined to be identified.
The company is also adding a new independent director,
Nestle executive and Alibaba board member Wan Ling Martello, a
company spokesman said.
Holder and his law firm were retained by Uber in February to
investigate company practices after former Uber engineer Susan
Fowler published a blog post detailing what she described as
sexual harassment and a lack of a suitable response by senior
The recommendations in Holder's firm's report place greater
controls on spending, human resources and other areas where
executives led by Kalanick have had a surprising amount of
autonomy for a company with more than 12,000 employees, sources
familiar with the matter said.
Kalanick and two allies on the board have voting control of
the company. Kalanick's forceful personality and enormous
success with Uber to date, as well as his super-voting shares,
have won him broad deference in the boardroom, according to the
people familiar with the deliberations.
Any decision to take a leave of absence will ultimately be
Kalanick's, one source said.
The world's most valuable venture-backed private company has
found itself at a crossroads as its rough-and-tumble approach to
local regulations and handling employees and drivers has led to
a series of problems.
It is facing a criminal probe by the U.S. Department of
Justice over its use of a software tool that helped its drivers
evade local transportation regulators, sources have told
Last week, Uber said it fired 20 staff after another law
firm looked into 215 cases encompassing complaints of sexual
harassment, discrimination, unprofessional behavior, bullying
and other employee claims.
SILICON VALLEY SHOCK
Even a temporary departure by Kalanick would be a shock for
the Silicon Valley startup world, where company founders in
recent years have enjoyed more autonomy and often become
synonymous with their firms.
Uber's image, culture and practices have been largely
defined by Kalanick's brash approach, company insiders and
investors previously told Reuters.
Uber board member Arianna Huffington said in March that
Kalanick needed to change his leadership style from that of a
"scrappy entrepreneur" to be more like a "leader of a major
global company." The board has been looking for a chief
operating officer to help Kalanick run the company since March.
The debate over Kalanick's future comes as he is also facing
a personal trauma: His mother died last month in a boating
accident, in which his father was also badly injured.
Michael, described by employees as Kalanick's closest
deputy, has been a recurring flashpoint for controversy at the
He once discussed hiring private investigators to probe the
personal lives of reporters writing stories faulting the
company. Kalanick disavowed and publicly criticized the
Michael will be replaced as the company's top business
development executive by David Richter, currently an Uber vice
president, the company spokesman said.
Alongside Uber's management crisis, its self-driving car
program is in jeopardy after a lawsuit from Alphabet Inc
alleging trade secrets theft, and the company has
suffered an exodus of top executives.
One Uber investor called the board's decisions on Sunday a
step in the right direction, giving Uber an "opportunity to
(Reporting by Heather Somerville and Joseph Menn; Editing by
Bill Rigby and Meredith Mazzilli)