Uber to Add Independent Director as Board Responds to Crises

  • Company adds Martello, a Nestle exec and Alibaba board member
  • Independent probe recommended more independent directors

Uber Fires More Than 20 Employees in Harassment Probe

As Uber Technologies Inc. looks to address a series of management and cultural failings, the ride-hailing company plans to appoint Wan Ling Martello, an executive vice president at Nestle SA, to the board, people familiar with the matter said.

The addition of an independent board member addresses one recommendation resulting from an expansive investigation led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that Uber commissioned, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. The board met Sunday in Los Angeles to begin voting on issues stemming from the Holder report and a separate probe by another law firm. Topics on the agenda included a potential leave of absence for Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick and the fate of head of business, Emil Michael, Bloomberg reported.

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. Martello’s power at Uber is likely to be limited because much of the board is controlled by the CEO and his two longtime colleagues. It wasn’t clear whether her appointment was finalized in Sunday’s meeting.

Martello’s appointment couldn’t come at a more chaotic time for Uber. A subcommittee of Uber’s board, composed of media mogul Arianna Huffington, TPG founding partner David Bonderman and Benchmark partner Bill Gurley, weighed the results of Holder’s inquiry and prepared a presentation to the board. The company said last week that it fired more than 20 people after a separate and ongoing human-resources probe by Perkins Coie LLP. And it parted ways with Eric Alexander, who led the company’s expansion throughout Asia, over his handling of a 2014 rape case in India by an Uber driver.

In addition to Martello, Uber added two other senior female leaders in the past week. Frances Frei, a Harvard Business School professor, joined the company as senior vice president for strategy and leadership. Bozoma Saint John will become chief brand officer after a stint at Apple Inc., where she headed up global consumer marketing for iTunes and Beats Music.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.