Keeping CEO job was 1 fight too many for Uber's Kalanick

Travis Kalanick, who co-founded Uber in 2009, has been on a leave of absence from the ride-hailing service.

Uber "is the very definition of a toxic leadership culture" and Kalanick "set the tone", said Jason Hanold, chief executive officer and managing partner at human resources executive recruitment firm Hanold Associates.

Although Kalanick stepped down as chief executive, he will remain on Uber's board of directors.

In a statement provided to Reuters, the Uber board of directors called Kalanick's resignation "a bold decision" that "gives the company room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber's history".

The investors delivered the letter to Kalanick while he was in Chicago, the New York Times reported, citing people with knowledge of the situation. The departure came as Uber faced increased scrutiny following an investigation into its culture and workplace practices.

Uber has also been dealing with a lawsuit filed by Waymo, the self-driving subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), that alleges that Uber's internal self-driving program is using intellectual property stolen from Google. His book makes it clear that Kalanick was always the company's greatest strength and its biggest problem.

"There is no business model in being at war".

Regardless of the motivations behind his removal, Kalanick, who was rocked by the loss of his mother in a recent boating accident, now gets to have the redemption he needs, if not the one he planned.

Outside experts said the only way to change Uber's culture was for Kalanick to step aside. "It's going to be a challenge for Uber", he said.

In late March, reports surfaced that Kalanick and five Uber employees visited a karaoke-escort bar in Seoul in 2014.

While operating without most of an executive team seems frightening, Uber now has a chance to build a completely new, and likely more experienced, senior management group, which should signal to Wall Street that the company is taking itself more seriously, said Reena Aggarwal, professor at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business.

As one former employee said, "You put in someone who's more benign or more PC or more timid, and you really think Uber will make it to their valuation or IPO?"

Like most any rocket ship of a company, Uber rose on the back of a variety of forces - the invention of the iPhone, a surfeit of people looking for temporary work during the recession, seemingly limitless venture capital - that had nothing to do with the ingenuity of the people running it.

  • Zachary Reyes