Uber Says Changes Are Coming, Appoints Independent Board Member

  • Uber declined to say whether CEO would take leave of absence
  • Results of six-hour board meeting to be outlined Tuesday

Analyst Cakmak Says Emil Michael Is Uber's Fall Guy

An Uber Technologies Inc. board representative said directors approved all recommendations from an investigation into workplace sexual harassment, without providing clarity on the fates of Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick and his head of business.

Billionaire Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc., speaks during a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, China.

Travis Kalanick

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

The ride-hailing company plans to begin implementing the changes, which have yet to be publicized, early this week and will outline them to employees at a meeting Tuesday. Uber is also planning to appoint Wan Ling Martello, an executive vice president at Nestle SA, to the board, people familiar with the matter said. The company declined to comment further.

On the agenda at a Sunday meeting that lasted six hours were a possible leave of absence for Kalanick and a potential parting with Kalanick confidant and head of business, Emil Michael. The pair’s involvement in at least two incidents -- the mishandling of an Indian rape victim’s medical records and a visit to a Seoul karaoke bar that reportedly prompted a human-resources complaint -- came up in the course of the probe, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Bloomberg reported.

The investigation by Holder’s law firm Covington & Burling LLP and a separate examination of HR matters by Perkins Coie LLP were provoked by allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination from former employee Susan Fowler in February. The scope soon expanded to include over 200 HR claims and resulted in the firings of more than 20 employees. Eric Alexander, who oversaw business in Asia, departed amid reports of the India rape controversy last week.

Uber Probe Said to Extend to India Rape Case

In addition to responding to a cavalcade of scandals, Kalanick has had to grapple with the accidental death of his mother, whose funeral was Friday.

As attention turns to Uber’s CEO and one of his deputies, the uncertainty highlights a critical weakness in the company’s top ranks. In the last four months, Uber lost a president and the heads of its autonomous driving unit, finance, mapping, policy, software engineering, and product and growth. The role of chief financial officer remains open, and it’s actively searching for an operating chief to provide leadership help to Kalanick.

Apple Music Head of Global Marketing Bozoma Saint John speaks during Moet & Chandon's Beats and Bites dinner series at The Nice Guy on May 21, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Apple Music Head of Global Marketing Bozoma Saint John speaks during Moet & Chandon's Beats and Bites dinner series at The Nice Guy on May 21, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Photographer: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Moet & Chandon

The new board member, Martello, brings experience managing sprawling workforces. She was executive vice president for global e-commerce at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. At Nestle, she was chief financial officer before becoming head of Asia, Oceania and Sub-Saharan Africa for the food giant. She’s also a director of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and on the audit committee. It wasn’t clear whether her appointment was finalized in Sunday’s meeting.

Uber is racing to fill holes in its leadership. Last week, the company said it hired Frances Frei, a Harvard Business School professor, as senior vice president for strategy and leadership, and Apple Inc.’s Bozoma Saint John as chief brand officer.

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