Business World

Saturday 19 August 2017

TPG founder - and Ryanair board member - Bonderman quits Uber board after making sexist joke

David Bonderman, founding partner of TPG Capital, speaks during a panel discussion at the Bloomberg Year Ahead: 2015 conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Nov. 14, 2014. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
David Bonderman, founding partner of TPG Capital, speaks during a panel discussion at the Bloomberg Year Ahead: 2015 conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Nov. 14, 2014. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Rebecca Lumley

An Uber board member has resigned after making an “inappropriate comment” at a meeting addressing sexual harassment yesterday, marking the company’s third high-profile departure in a week.

US billionaire David Bonderman made the comment to fellow board member Ariana Huffington, of the Huffington Post, who was espousing the benefits of having more females on the Uber board of directors.

Bonderman founded Texas Pacific Group (TPG) in 1992 with Jim Coulter and has served as its chairman since 2014. He’s also on the board of Ryanair Holdings Plc, real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield Inc., Kite Pharma Inc. and almost 20 other companies, according to Bloomberg.

"There’s a lot of data that shows when there’s one woman on the board, it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on the board," Huffington told the group, according to the Washington Post.

"Actually," Bonderman reportedly interrupted, "what it shows is, it’s much more likely there'll be more talking."

Both Uber and TPG confirmed the resignation of Bonderman (74).

Mr Bonderman’s resignation is just the most recent source of upheaval for the multi-national taxi company.

Earlier this week the company’s chief, Travis Kalanick, announced that he would be taking time away from the company. In an email to staff, Mr Kalanick said the decision to leave, which also comes after the sudden death of his mother in a boating accident, is part of an effort to create "Uber 2.0".

The company’s Senior Vice President, Emil Michael, also resigned this week.

Uber is undergoing a major image-overhaul at the moment, focusing on reforming the company’s culture after a series of internal sexual harassment allegations.

Recommendations from a report by former US attorney general Eric H Holder were released yesterday, which focused on Uber’s workplace culture.

Holder had been hired to address mounting criticism of the company.

The issue of sexual harassment, which is believed to have been included in the report’s recommendations, was the reason for the board meeting at which Mr Borderman made his comments. There were 47 recommendations in total, spanning almost every aspect of the company’s management.

Under the proposals, senior managers will undergo mandatory leadership training and Uber’s current position of head of diversity will be renamed as the “chief diversity and inclusion officer” and report directly to the chief executive or chief operating officer.

Uber also will adopt a rule requiring that when the company is filling a key job, at least one woman and one minority candidate be interviewed before the hire can go forward.

Following the meeting, Mr Bonderman (74) circulated an email to Uber employees, apologising for making the “disrespectful” comment and referring to it as "inappropriate."

A few hours later he resigned and issued the statement:

"Uber is examining the issues with its culture, and making significant changes and working to right what has been done wrong, which is extremely important for the future of the company.

"I do not want my comments to create distraction as Uber works to build a culture of which we can be proud. I need to hold myself to the same standards that we’re asking Uber to adopt."

Ms Huffington praised Mr Bonderman’s decision, saying he had done the "right thing" for the company.

Following the decision, the Washington Post described Uber’s situation as "corporate chaos."

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