Sunday 22 July 2018

New Uber boss Dara Khosrowshahi tells employees he's 'scared' about taking up CEO role

Dara Khosrowshahi REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/
Dara Khosrowshahi REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/

James Titcomb

The incoming chief executive of Uber has admitted he is "scared" about taking the job as his appointment was made official.

In a message to staff at his current company Expedia, Dara Khosrowshahi confirmed he had accepted Uber's offer to join the ride-hailing app.

The role is seen by some as a poisoned chalice, given the multitude of problems Uber is facing and the continued presence of its founder and former boss Travis Kalanick on the company's board.

The new boss will have to deal with the aftermath of a sexism and harassment scandal, a worrying lack of senior executives, and a legal battle with Google over claims that Uber is using stolen driverless car technology.

The company's board is also deeply divided, with influential shareholder Benchmark Capital suing Kalanick in an attempt to remove him from the board. At present, Kalanick has significant shareholder power at Uber, leading to fears that he will continue to wield control even after resigning in June.

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Dara Khosrowshahi's message to staff

It’s with truly mixed feelings that I am writing this note to you today. The Uber board has offered me, and I am accepting, the CEO role for that company. This has been one of the toughest decisions of my life. I’ve had the privilege to run Expedia for 12+ years now, and most of you who have been on this journey with me know that it has not all been easy going.


We’ve had to fight through multiple technology re-platformings, supplier margin and competitive pressures, worldwide financial meltdowns, enormous integrations, building our global muscles, and a hugely competitive talent and travel marketplace. But we have put our heads down together and pushed and worked and innovated and have built a truly great company and had more than our fair share of fun along the way.


Co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned from Uber
Co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned from Uber

I have to tell you that I’m scared. I’ve been here at Expedia for so long that I’ve forgotten what life is outside of this place. But the times of greatest learning for me have been when I’ve been through big changes, or taken on new roles – you have to move out of your comfort zone and develop muscles that you didn’t know you had. I always tell people to look for a role where they, as an individual, can make a difference, at a company that is making a difference. I know I can look back at my work at Expedia and say mission accomplished. And I can look forward to Uber and know that I will make a difference, hopefully for the better.


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In a note to Expedia staff, Khosrowshahi said: "I have to tell you that I’m scared.  I’ve been here at Expedia for so long that I’ve forgotten what life is outside of this place." He added that "I can look forward to Uber and know that I will make a difference, hopefully for the better."

In a message to employees, Uber's board said: "We're really fortunate to gain a leader with Dara's experience, talent and vision. The board and the executive leadership team are confident that Dara is the best person to lead Uber."

Kalanick, who is believed to have supported former GE chief executive Jeff Immelt as a candidate to succeed him, also publicly welcomed Khosrowshahi's appointment.

"Casting a vote for the next chief executive of Uber was a big moment for me and I couldn't be happier to pass the torch to such an inspiring leader," he said.

Khosrowshahi was officially appointed as it emerged that the US government is investigating whether Uber broke foreign bribery laws. The Department of Justice is looking into claims that the company, which has faced fierce opposition from governments in some countries, broke the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The new boss' introduction to staff on Wednesday comes at an awkward time for Uber, coinciding with the first day of hearings in the lawsuit between Kalanick and Benchmark Capital.

Benchmark, which was behind the coup that forced Kalanick to resign, is suing him for fraud, claiming he has packed Uber's board with allies in an attempt to increase his grip on the company.

Kalanick is seeking to have the case dismissed and be settled by an independent mediator instead of becoming a public battle. He is not expected to appear at the hearing in Delaware on Wednesday.

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