Uber CEO Travis Kalanick May Take Leave Of Absence Amid Controversies

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Amid a recent avalanche of bad headlines — including the release of an email memo to employees outlining his rules for partying and sex — Uber CEO Travis Kalanick may step away from the company for a bit.

According to reports from Recode, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, Uber’s board of directors are considering a three-month leave of absence for Kalanick.

The directors also reportedly “unanimously voted” to adopt all recommendations made in a report by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who had been hired by Uber to independently investigate allegations of a toxic culture at the company. Holder’s report is slated to be released on Tuesday.

Among those suggestions is the departure of one of Kalanick’s top people, Emil Michael, who joined Uber in 2013 and helped oversee strategy initiatives like mergers and acquisitions and fundraising, according to a Times insider.

Kalanick himself proposed the leave of absence after his mother was killed in a boating accident last month, the Times notes. At that time, he reportedly told people he might need to take a break after working nonstop since the company’s founding in 2009.

It remains to be seen if the board approves his leave of absence, but if it did, Uber would have to move quickly to find a short-term replacement, which could be tricky, Recode notes: There’s no COO, CFO, CMO, or SVP of engineering at Uber, and there could be more job vacancies coming down the line depending on the results of Holder’s report.

The company declined to comment on the board’s discussions to various media outlets.

If Kalanick does step away for a bit, it’ll be a major departure for him: He’s known for his tight grip on all the goings on in the company, a leadership style that helped Uber get where it is today.

But he’s also been tied up in a slew of controversies involving the company: Just las week, Uber fired at least 20 people as part of its internal investigation into allegations of a culture of harassment and sexism. At the same time, it was reported that the company was still paying women employees less than men, that Kalanick was using the Uber HQ lactation room for his personal meditation space, and that a since-fired company executive had obtained and shared the medical files of a rape victim in an effort to disprove her allegations.

And in March, Kalanick apologized and said he had some growing up to do after he was caught on video arguing with one of his own drivers.

This might prove to be the time for a change.

“Looking closely at our culture, it’s absolutely a truism that every strength in excess can become a weakness,” Uber’s chief human resources officer, Liane Hornsey, told Recode. “Uber is disruptive — and disruption demands the confidence to be bold. What I have seen, though, is that this has translated internally to what I would call a cult of the individual. We now need to expend genuine effort ensuring the individual is never more important than the team — not ever.”

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