Change may finally be coming to Uber.
The ridesharing giant is reportedly parting ways with Emil Michael, the company’s chief business officer and the right-hand man of CEO Travis Kalanick, according to the Wall Street Journal. There’s also talk of Kalanick taking a leave of absence.
Uber did not immediately respond to Mashable’s request for comment.
Kalanick’s full-on removal has been the topic of debate between investors and reporters like our own Lance Ulanoff, and even a leave of absence would be a significant development for the embattled exec. Kalanick has since the early days of Uber been the company’s figurehead and while not its first, its longest-running CEO. He’s been heralded by many for his business acumen, and many of Uber’s 13,000 employees fondly call him by his nickname “TK.”
And yet, Kalanick has been critiqued for poor judgment while letting a fast-growing startup turn into a company riddled with HR-related problems. Yes, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti blew the whistle on the company’s toxic workplace culture issues via a blog post in February, but her story was far from the only one.
Michael, who shares a close relationship to Kalanick, would be the biggest name to resign amid Uber’s ongoing controversy surrounding its internal culture. This news comes just ahead of Uber’s board of directors meeting in Los Angeles on Sunday to discuss the findings of an investigation into the ride-hailing company by former attorney general Eric Holder. The investigation was conducted in wake of Fowler Rigetti’s blog post.
This isn’t the first change that’s come to Uber since that blog post, but it’s one of the most significant and overdue moves. Michael drew severe criticism for his behavior as an executive and as a human when he suggested tracking female journalists who were writing about the company.
It appears that back then Michael simply got a slap on the wrist. Now, more than two years later, he may finally be out of the company after several more scandals that included his name. Michael was in attendance at the escort-karaoke bar in Seoul, where Uber employees allegedly picked women from a line. Michael also was one of the few executives who knew that Uber’s former head of business in Asia, Eric Alexander, had shared medical records of a rape victim in India.
Michael stepping down has been discussed previously. Uber’s general counsel and several board members had advised that Michael take a leave from the company while the Holder investigation was taking place and until the results were revealed, the New York Times reported, citing three people familiar with the matter. However, Michael refused to step down, and, according to the Times, Kalanick did not force him to do so.
These potential moves aren’t the only changes to happen near the top of Uber. Amit Singhal, formerly Uber’s senior vice president of engineering, resigned in February after Recode surfaced reports of him leaving his previous job at Google due to sexual harassment allegations. Former president of Uber Jeff Jones quit in March, reportedly due to Kalanick’s leadership, or lack thereof. Uber’s vice president of growth Ed Baker stepped down in March as well.
Uber has brought in more people to help push the company in the right direction. Uber board member Arianna Huffington took on a more active role in Uber after the blog post. Uber also recently hired Frances Frei, formerly a professor at Harvard Business School, and is it first SVP of leadership and strategy. Bozoma Saint John, formerly of Apple, joined as Uber’s first chief brand officer.
Last week, Uber fired more than 20 employees, following a separate investigated by Perkins Coie. The Holder investigation is allegedly much more damning for the company.