Friday 23 March 2018

Who is Uber's new boss Dara Khosrowshahi - and why haven't you heard his name before?

Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi poses for a portrait during the 2010 Reuters Travel and Leisure Summit in New York, U.S. February 22, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo
Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi poses for a portrait during the 2010 Reuters Travel and Leisure Summit in New York, U.S. February 22, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Bradley Gerrard

Expedia is America's biggest online travel agency but it's fair to say the profile of its boss Dara Khosrowshahi isn't equivalent in scale.

The 48-year-old Iranian might have run Expedia for 12 years but he’s relatively unknown outside the US tech scene. This is mainly because Mr Khosrowshahi is based in Washington state and so is part of Seattle’s tech cohort, which is less well known internationally than California’s Silicon Valley.

But this is probably about to change if Mr Khosrowshahi takes the job atop ride-hailing app Uber. Until recently, it’s chief executive was the company’s founder Travis Kalanick, who resigned in June after allegations emerged of endemic sexual harassment at the company, which led to a major internal investigation with more than a dozen senior executives departing.

Mr Khosrowshahi has been somewhat less controversial, quietly growing Expedia’s revenues from $2.1bn (£1.6bn) in 2005 to $8.7bn in 2016. The company owns sites such as, Trivago and Travelocity making it a major go-to for Americans and others around the world when they look to book their getaways.

Prior to running Expedia, Mr Khosrowshahi was the chief financial officer at IAC, an internet and media conglomerate listed on Nasdaq. The company owned and ran various consumer-facing online businesses, including video-sharing website Vimeo, The Daily Beast, Investopedia and Match Group’s brands including Match and Tinder. It was IAC that bought Expedia in 2003 and then rebooted it in 2005 with Mr Khosrowshahi atop the firm.

Read more: What exactly is happening at Uber and why has Travis Kalanick resigned?

Mr Khosrowshahi was born in Iran but moved to America as a child. He is a US citizen and attended the prestigious Brown University, a private Ivy League research university in Providence, Rhode Island, which was founded in 1764, making it the seventh oldest college in the US. He read electrical engineering.

The self-professed sci-fi geek has been raising his public profile slightly in recent months, appearing on the Mad Money show on CNBC in May. This month, he also tweeted about his disquiet about the way President Trump handled the recent racially-motivated tensions in Charlottesville. “I keep waiting for the moment when our Prez will rise to the expectations of his office and he fails, repeatedly," he wrote in response to media coverage of the incident.

Mr Khosrowshahi has spoken about his belief in the long-term and a willingness to shrink margins in the short term if this will help propel his company’s growth in years to come. He has also made moves at Expedia to embrace new trends and take on competitors head-on. Two years ago Expedia bought Home-Away, a business similar to Airbnb, which allows home-owners to rent out their properties via a website. Bookings were up 50pc at Home-Away in its first quarter suggesting the purchase was a shrewd one.

Uber has continued to grow  in spite of the recent attention on its controversies. This month it reported a 16pc increase in ride bookings and 17pc jump in net revenue for the second quarter over the previous period. Its losses also shrank by 9pc. But as well as overhauling the corporate culture, Mr Khosrowshahi will have to deal with the changing dynamics in Uber's industry, including how its workers are employed and driverless cars.

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