Business

Help wanted: Uber boss Travis seeks babysitter for him and his execs

Kalanick vows to bring in a grownup to knock sense into toxic, sexist upstart

By Shaun Nichols in San Francisco

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Following a string of damaging revelations about its atrocious corporate culture, Uber is seeking fresh help to clean up its act.

Uber boss Travis Kalanick announced on Tuesday he will try to hire a chief operating officer to help him run the San Francisco-based toxic upstart. Good luck, Trav, given that putting Uber on your résumé is borderline career suicide. Anyway, this is what he told the world today:

This morning I told the Uber team that we’re actively looking for a Chief Operating Officer: a peer who can partner with me to write the next chapter in our journey.

Speculation is that the Uber COO will take a role not unlike Sheryl Sandberg's at Facebook – providing guidance to a younger, less experienced management team on the ins and outs of running a large corporation without embarrassing shareholders too much.

Kalanick more or less said as much last week when he confessed that he would have to "grow up" in his role as CEO and admitted "I need leadership help and I intend to get it."

This breakdown was triggered not by a single incident, but rather by what can charitably be described as a nightmare stretch for Uber that has turned an already notorious corporate culture toxic, led to the resignations of executives, and turned many customers off the company completely.

Among the most damning reports was the account of former engineer Susan Fowler, who detailed rampant sexism and harassment among Uber's management ranks.

The talk of a toxic corporate culture only grew when, just days later, Kalanick was caught berating a driver who complained about the falling ride fares Uber was handing the contractors who power its ride-for-hire empire.

The bad news mounted when Google's Waymo subsidiary filed suit accusing Uber of orchestrating the defection of a key executive and stealing its self-driving car technology.

Those reports were followed up by revelations that Uber has for years been using its internal systems to evade police, and later by a fresh round of accusations that Uber has been illegally ignoring the safety of its passengers. ®

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