Amidst a 2017 of non-stop scandals, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick takes a leave of absence to mourn mother and build out leadership.
In many ways, Travis Kalanick’s leave of absence from Uber has felt inevitable. The CEO has been at the center of Uber-related scandals all year. There were those that directly involved him — Trump’s advisory council or video of him berating a driver — as well as drama that he, as CEO, was inherently responsible for: reports of sabotaging competitors, evading law enforcement and self-driving car lawsuits.
On June 13, Kalanick circulated a company-wide email describing how he would be taking a leave of absence to mourn his mother, who tragically passed after a boating accident in May that also seriously injured his father. The email leaves Kalanick’s return date open and the curious state of leadership at Uber doesn’t clarify things either.
Quartz reports that five executive positions at Uber are open and another five were filled with internal promotions just this year in response to scandal. All 17 roles would, if filled, report to Kalanick. Quartz also details the maneuvers Uber’s board is taking in response to a damning report on the company’s culture, including forcing out Emil Michael, chief business officer (and close confidant of Kalanick), and bringing in Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei to “reorder [Uber’s] executive ranks.”
According to CNN Tech, one of Uber’s most pressing goals is to surround Kalanick with “seasoned executives,” specifically to find “a COO who might do for Kalanick what Sheryl Sandberg did for Mark Zuckerberg.”
In his email, which Quartz reproduced in full, Kalanick wrote that “for Uber 2.0 to succeed there is nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team.” He also mentioned that the existing leadership team has been empowered “to be bold and decisive in order to move the company forward.”
As it stands, that leadership is essentially non-existent. With Kalanick’s leave of absence, Uber is now without a CEO, COO, CMO, CFO or president.