Uber soap opera takes a dramatic turn as board Travis Kalanick takes leave of absence

Uber’s board agreed Kalanick should take compassionate leave

Melodramatic twists and turns at Uber have sent the biggest shockwave yet through the ride-hailing app after under fire chief executive Travis Kalanick agreed to take indefinite leave following publication of a damning report into Uber's workplace culture.

Announcing his decision to go in an email to staff Kalanick said: "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."

Uber’s board discussed whether Kalanick should take compassionate leave or adopt a reduced workload on Sunday following the sudden death of his mother two weeks ago, since which he has been on bereavement leave.

It is the latest blow for a firm which has been knocked for six by a crisis in confidence stemming from multiple overlapping scandals which have sent a slew of executives heading for the exit door, most recently its head of business Emil Michael. This follows recommendations made by former US attorney general Eric Holder for a shake-up of the company’s workplace practices.

Michael was a key ally of Kalanick who was already considering his position as he comes to terms with a death in the family while simultaneously juggling fallout from a succession of revelations pertaining to sexual harassment, industrial espionage and a lack of ethics – all of which had taken hold under his watch.

Holder’s report, which calls for improvements to Uber’s hiring practices and human resources processes, has been recommended for implementation in full by Uber.

In an effort to improve diversity Uber has sought to bring more female voices onto its executive team, most recently with the appointment of Apple's Bozoma Saint John as chief brand officer.

The first port of call in John's bulging in-tray will be Uber's Asia head who was found to have shared the medical records of an Indian rape victim with Kalanick after the woman accused Uber driver Shiv Kumar Yadav of sexually assaulting her. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.

Uber had already appointed Harvard professor Frances Frei to reboot its reputation but is at risk of being overwhelmed by the tide of scandals.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.