Uber: The scandals that drove Travis Kalanick out – BBC News

 In Technology

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Uber’s embattled chief executive Travis Kalanick has resigned from the firm, following pressure from shareholders.

His resignation comes after a chaotic few months at the firm, including a series of scandals about sexual harassment, macho culture and the departure of senior executives.

Mr Kalanick had already said that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence following the sudden death of his mother in a boating accident.

There is no doubt that Travis Kalanick, the billionaire founder of the Uber lift-sharing platform, built a company that is one of the giants of Silicon Valley.

However, recent months have seen him make a series of apologies for both his own behaviour and that of members of his leadership team.

Uber now operates in 662 cities around the world and is valued at nearly $70bn (£55bn).

Mr Kalanick’s reputation for ruthlessness and machismo has led to some deeply uncomfortable reports about the culture inside Uber: with persistent stories about organisational sexism and disputes with drivers over their terms and with local authorities and taxi companies.

“Travis’s biggest strength is that he will run through a wall to accomplish his goals,” investor and mentor Mark Cuban told the New York Times.

“Travis’s biggest weakness is that he will run through a wall to accomplish his goals. That’s the best way to describe him.”

‘Scrappy entrepreneur’

Travis Kalanick’s informal “bro-like” tone has not always helped.

In a widely reported email to staff ahead of a company party in Miami in 2013, Mr Kalanick – known as TK – asked employees not to have sex with each other if they were in the “same chain of command” or to throw beer kegs off tall buildings, and levied a $200 (£158) “puke charge” for anyone who was sick, presumably as a result of over-indulgence.

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Arianna Huffington has said Travis Kalanick needs to change his leadership style

It’s difficult to imagine Apple’s Tim Cook or Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg writing a similar missive.

Board member Arianna Huffington said in March that Mr Kalanick needed to evolve his leadership style from “scrappy entrepreneur” to “leader of a major global company.”

President Jeff Jones is one of a stream of executives who have parted ways with the company in recent months. Mr Jones left after less than one year in post.

“It is now clear… that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride-sharing business,” he said in a statement to Recode.

Mr Kalanick himself acknowledged that he needed to “grow up”, after a video of him swearing at an Uber driver in a row over rates was shared online.

He said he was “ashamed” of his behaviour and accepted that he needed “leadership help”.

He now has a private driver.

Women

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It has been claimed that Mr Kalanick saw the medical records of a woman who accused an Uber driver of rape in India, after they were obtained by Uber Asia executive Eric Alexander.

Uber did not comment directly but confirmed that Mr Alexander no longer worked there.

In February 2017, a blog post by former Uber engineer Susan J Fowler, which documented her experiences of sexism at Uber, went viral.

It led to Mr Kalanick launching an investigation into the culture of the organisation.

He described her experiences as “abhorrent” and against the company’s values.

Another Uber employee who wrote about her time there said it had been suggested to her – by another woman – that a male manager couldn’t look her in the eye because she was wearing a sleeveless tank top.

There are other anecdotes about Uber’s attitude to women that have raised eyebrows.

‘Boob-er’

During an interview with the magazine GQ in 2014, Mr Kalanick joked about a service for women on demand, which he nicknamed “Boob-er”.

Ex-girlfriend Gabi Holzwarth recalled going with Mr Kalanick and a team of employees to an escort-karaoke bar in Korea where women sat in a circle at the bar, wearing tags with numbers on them.

He did not get involved and the pair did not stay for long.

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