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Uber’s search for a new CEO is full of Machiavellian drama.
The company’s former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, may have stepped down from the top position, but he’s angling for a glorious return, according to a report in Recode.
Kalanick reportedly told several people at the company that he was “Steve Jobs-ing it”, a reference to the cofounder of Apple who was fired from the company but later returned and turned it into the world’s most valuable firm.
Kalanick wasn’t fired, but he resigned last month after months of problems at the company, mostly attributed to its “bro” culture. The crisis blew up in February when a former Uber employee wrote a blog post describing persistent harassment and sexism at the company, and it stayed visible after a video emerged of Kalanick shouting at an Uber driver; an Uber executive was fired after he reportedly accessed the medical records of a victim who had been raped by an Uber driver in India; and the company used secret software to dodge city regulators.
Now the company is on the hunt for a new leader, and Kalanick is apparently trying to ensure a favourable outcome for himself.
Uber is still whittling down candidates for the CEO role, and whoever takes the job will do so knowing Kalanick remains on the company’s board. According to Recode, Kalanick is one of the most off-putting factors for anyone thinking about taking the job.
Recode spoke with three people it said were contacted for the CEO job, and they all reportedly cited Travis as one of Uber’s biggest continuing problems. “Man, he’s brilliant and so important, but who wants to deal with Travis?” one said.
According to the report, Kalanick has returned from a brief break from Uber to try to take part in the company’s day-to-day operations. Uber has had to reinforce a policy in which all the company directors get access to only the same limited amount of information about its everyday operations. Part of the problem, according to some, is that Uber has been Kalanick’s “life” – and it’s been hard to let go.
Japanese tech giant SoftBank’s involved in the drama too
The Japanese internet giant SoftBank is reportedly thinking about taking a multibillion-dollar stake in Uber. And even that’s fraught with complications. According to The New York Times, Uber’s board is still considering whether the investment is a good idea. SoftBank has invested in a bunch of Uber’s direct competitors, after all.
But that’s not all. SoftBank’s involvement could further muddy the waters in terms of who’s in power. It’s possible that Kalanick would use the investment to dilute other shareholders’ power and turn SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son into an ally who favours his return, The Times said.
It’s unlikely we’ll see Kalanick return as CEO anytime soon, since he just doesn’t have the backing of the board. But it looks as if the drama will continue for a while yet.