Uber Board Considers Placing Embattled CEO On Leave

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The board of Uber was meeting Sunday to consider placing the CEO of the ride-hailing company on leave, according The New York Times and other news outlets.

The Times reported that three people with knowledge of the matter have confirmed that Uber’s board was meeting to consider recommendations from a law firm hired to review Uber’s corporate culture and that the board may decide to put CEO Travis Kalanick on temporary leave.

The newspaper said its sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for Uber.

Uber Technologies Inc. has been rocked by accusations that its management has fostered a workplace environment where harassment, discrimination and bullying are left unchecked.

Uber spokesman Matt Kallman said that he wasn’t sure the company would make a statement after the meeting.

Reuters and the tech blog Recode reported the board meeting earlier. The Wall Street Journal also was citing unnamed sources about the meeting.

Uber has hired the law firm of former Attorney General Eric Holder to review policies and recommend changes. A report by his firm, Covington & Burling, was expected to be made public soon.

Uber announced last week that it fired 20 employees for harassment problems.

Under CEO Kalanick, Uber has shaken up the taxi industry in hundreds of cities and turned the San Francisco-based company into the world’s most valuable startup. Uber’s valuation has climbed to nearly $70 billion.

But Kalanick has acknowledged his management style needs improvement. The 40-year-old CEO said earlier this year that he needed to “fundamentally change and grow up.”

In February, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler wrote on a blog that she had been propositioned by her boss in a series of messages on her first day of work and that superiors ignored her complaints. Uber set up a hotline for complaints after that and hired the law firm of Perkins Coie to investigate.

That firm checked into 215 complaints, with 57 still under investigation.

Uber has been plagued by more than sexual harassment complaints in recent months. It has been threatened by boycotts, sued and subject to a federal investigation that it used a fake version of its app to thwart authorities looking into whether it is breaking local laws.

Kalanick lost his temper earlier this year in an argument with an Uber driver who was complaining about pay, and Kalanick’s profanity-laced comments were caught on video.

In a March conference call with reporters after that incident, board member Arianna Huffington expressed confidence that Kalanick would evolve into a better leader. But Huffington, a founder of Huffington Post, suggested time might be running out.

He’s a “scrappy entrepreneur,” she said during the call, but one who needed to bring “changes in himself and in the way he leads.”

The board meeting comes fresh on personal tragedy in Kalanick’s life. His mother was killed in late May after the boat she and her husband were riding in hit a rock. Kalanick’s father suffered moderate injuries.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Chief Business Officer Emil Michael is planning to resign as soon as Monday.

The company has faced high turnover in its top ranks. In March, Uber’s president, Jeff Jones, resigned after less than a year on the job. He said his “beliefs and approach to leadership” were “inconsistent” with those of the company.

In addition to firing 20 employees, Uber said Tuesday that it was hiring an Apple marketing executive, Bozoma Saint John, to help improve its tarnished brand. Saint John most recently was head of global consumer marketing for Apple Music and iTunes.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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