Emil Michael is the senior vice president of business at Uber whose inflammatory comments at a Nov. 14 dinner party in New York set off a media conflagration. Michael, BuzzFeed News reported, suggested hiring a team of investigators to look into the background of Uber’s critics, including journalists. In the torrent of coverage since, Michael has been depicted largely as a boorish bully who apparently thought nothing of stooping to Nixonian tactics to undermine his company’s enemies.
Some of Michael’s closest friends and colleagues say that public image doesn’t resemble the man they know, one they call an accomplished operator who is loyal and generous with his time. “I feel so terrible for him,” says Bill Campbell, the former chief executive of Intuit, adding that he considers himself a friend and mentor to Michael. The public depiction, Campbell says, “is not anybody I know.”