Uber's chief executive makes his garden leave permanent — but will still have a big influence

UPDATE June 21: Uber founder and chief executive Travis Kalanick has made his temporary leave permanent. 

The New York Times says Mr Kalanick quit the company after pressure from major shareholders.

There was no immediate word on who would replace the Uber boss, and analysts say there is no obvious successor.

And whoever takes up the challenge will still have to deal with Mr Kalanick who has maintained a seat on the board, and owns a majority of shares with voting rights.

Uber's abrasive boss goes on open-ended leave 'to work on Travis 2.0'

June 14: Uber's controversial co-founder and chief executive Travis Kalanick has gone on leave for an open-ended time.

In an email to staff sent earlier today NZT, the combative boss cited the need to grieve for his mother, who was recently killed in a boating accident and buried on Saturday NZT.

His temporary departure also comes on the heels of a report to the board by the law firm of former US attorney general Eric Holder. He was hired by Uber to look into its culture and practices after a female former employee wrote a public account of her time at the company marred by sexual harassment.

Mr Kalanick (40) obliquely referenced the controversy – which has already seen 12 senior managers sacked – by saying in his email: "I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve."

He says he will still be available for most strategic decisions but that he has also delegated significant authority to his 14 direct reports.

Uber, which has a private equity value of $US68 billion, is widely tipped to list this year. However, controversies and legal action over its abrasive culture have possibly pushed out the IPO.

The company has instituted a series of new human resource controls in the wake of the Holder report (read the full document here). The report also recommended two measures to check Mr Kalanick's powers: more independent board sets and a new chief operating officer role. Both are works in progress.

Meanwhile, US media reports suggest yet more legal and regulatory trouble for Uber, with the Federal Trade Commission said to have quietly opened a probe into Uber's privacy practices and use of meta data.

In New Zealand, Uber has looked to smooth its image and calm regulatory controversy by hiring Mitch Cooper as government relations manager.

Mr Cooper previously held the same role for Vodafone.

RAW DATA: Travis Kalanick's email to Uber staff


For the last eight years, my life has always been about Uber. 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.

During this interim period, the leadership team, my directs, will be running the company. I will be available as needed for the most strategic decisions, but I will be empowering them to be bold and decisive in order to move the company forward swiftly. It’s hard to put a timeline on this - it may be shorter or longer than we might expect. Tragically losing a loved one has been difficult for me and I need to properly say my goodbyes.

The incredible outpouring of heartfelt notes and condolences from all of you have kept me strong but almost universally they have ended with ‘How can I help?’. My answer is simple. Do your life’s work in service to our mission. That gives me time with family. Put people first, that is my mom’s legacy. And make Uber 2.0 real so that the world can see the inspired work all of you do, and the inspiring people that make Uber great.

See you soon, Travis

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