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Uber’s voting board, which consists of eight people, is meeting on Friday to try to decide who to name the next CEO. Jeff Immelt and Meg Whitman are both in the running, though Whitman has publicly said she will not be Uber’s CEO. There may also be a third person in the running: the head of Amazon Web Services. The board is pretty evenly split between Team Kalanick, which wants the former CEO, Travis Kalanick, to stick around and is leaning toward Immelt, and Team Benchmark, which wants him gone and would love to see Whitman take the helm, with a few wild cards.
Uber is at war with itself as two factions within its board try to select a new CEO to replace Travis Kalanick, the ride-hailing service’s cofounder and board member.
The group’s members, divided between Kalanick supporters and those who want him gone, will meet on Friday to attempt to agree on a new leader for the company.
One main candidate, Jeff Immelt, the former CEO of GE, reportedly has the support of Team Kalanick. Recode’s Kara Swisher says Immelt would be much more likely to let Kalanick play an active role in the company if he took the CEO job.
But the board is also considering Meg Whitman, the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, though she has publicly denied any interest in being Uber’s CEO. One person familiar with the process says Benchmark – the investor that has an Uber board seat and is suing Kalanick, alleging fraud – is trying to “ram through” Whitman. Whitman reportedly would want to keep Kalanick at bay so she could run the company without him breathing down her neck.
But according to someone familiar with the process, there may be a third person in the running: the head of Amazon Web Services. That’s presumably Andy Jassy, the CEO of AWS – which operates Amazon’s cloud service – who reports to Jeff Bezos. When we floated that name to an Uber representative, we were cautioned “not to believe rumors.” When we asked whether the representative was in a position to know the validity of this rumor, they declined to say.
Jassy joined Amazon in 1997 and cut his teeth as Bezos’ “technical assistant.” He was so close to Bezos that in those early days he was internally called Bezos’ “shadow.” Jassy was instrumental in launching Amazon’s industry-changing cloud-computing business, which is expected to reach revenue of at least $14 billion by the end of this year.
The makeup and size of Uber’s board have changed a lot since last summer. In June 2016, Uber’s board expanded from eight to 11 directors, and Kalanick was given the sole right to choose who sat in the three new seats. That expansion is a key part of the lawsuit Benchmark filed earlier this month against Kalanick. Benchmark alleges that when Kalanick pushed for the new seats, it was not aware of the “gross mismanagement and other misconduct at Uber.”
Benchmark wants those seats eliminated and Kalanick off the board. Kalanick, of course, wants to keep them and maintain control, which would give him an opportunity to return as CEO down the line.
Earlier this summer, following an investigation into the company’s culture, several board members left and were replaced. Here’s who will be in the room on Friday to determine Uber’s future, as well as where their allegiances seem to fall, according to a source familiar with their thinking:
Cohler, who was an early Facebook executive, is a partner at Benchmark. He joined Uber’s board in June when Bill Gurley, his fellow Benchmark partner who’s a former Kalanick champion, suddenly stepped down.
Graves was the first CEO of Uber. He was replaced by Kalanick but stayed on in an executive position for years before announcing his departure last month.
Graves has not been without controversy. He oversaw Uber’s human-resources department at the same time that Susan Fowler, a former engineer, says that she was being sexually harassed and that the company was doing little about it.
At one time a member of Kalanick’s A-team of trusted advisers and friends, Graves has in the past few weeks come to lean much more closely toward Benchmark’s position, a person familiar with the situation says. He may even have been in favor of Kalanick’s ousting in June.
Kalanick said in June that he was taking a leave of absence from Uber. The announcement came right after former Attorney General Eric Holder presented the findings of his investigation into Uber’s workplace culture to the board, and after Kalanick’s mother died in a boating accident. Kalanick stepped down as CEO about a week later.
Shervin Pishevar, an early Uber investor, has alleged Benchmark took advantage of Kalanick’s absence to push for his resignation.
If Benchmark wins its lawsuit, Kalanick could be booted from the board.
- Flickr/C2 Montréal
Huffington has defended Kalanick, despite the revelations of the bombshell investigation into the company’s toxic culture.
According to a letter written by Pishevar, the Benchmark camp wants to remove her from the board, possibly because of her support for Kalanick.
Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan
Al-Rumayyan is the chief executive of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which poured a few billion into Uber in mid-2016.
Camp, who created StumbleUpon and the startup incubator Expa, founded Uber with Kalanick. He has publicly said Kalanick will not return as Uber’s CEO, but that may not make him anti-Kalanick. One friend of Camp’s said he may not have meant by his statement that Kalanick would be gone “forever.”
Trujillo, a partner at the investment firm TPG, is new to the board. He replaced David Bonderman, his fellow TPG partner, after Bonderman made an insensitive joke about women during an Uber all-hands meeting in June. A source describes him as not necessarily on Team Benchmark, but also not a member of Team Kalanick.
Martello, the former chief financial officer of Nestle, is described as relatively independent, siding with one party or the other depending on the issue at hand.
In sum: It’s a pretty even split
The board seems to comprise two members who are definitely on Team Benchmark, three who are on Team Kalanick, and three with uncertain allegiances. Of those wild cards, one seems to lean toward Benchmark and another toward Kalanick, while the third seems truly independent.