Travis Kalanick, the cofounder and CEO of Uber, has stepped down as the ride-hailing company's top executive.
"I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight," Kalanick said in a statement obtained by The New York Times late on Tuesday night in California.
Kalanick will stay on Uber's board of directors.
He faced strong opposition from Uber shareholders, ultimately forcing him to step down, The Times' Mike Isaac reported.
Citing two unnamed sources close to the discussions, Isaac wrote that Kalanick's exit followed "hours of drama" between Uber's major investors, five of whom demanded his immediate resignation. The venture-capital firm Benchmark was one of the loudest voices on that front, Isaac wrote. Bill Gurley, a partner at Benchmark, also sits on Uber's board.
There will be many pages in the history books devoted to @travisk - very few entrepreneurs have had such a lasting impact on the world.— Bill Gurley (@bgurley) June 21, 2017
Kalanick had taken a leave of absence amid the death of his mother in a boating accident along with numerous internal scandals that have plagued the company in recent months.
"Travis has always put Uber first," the board said in a statement. "This is a bold decision and a sign of his devotion and love for Uber. By stepping away, he's taking the time to heal from his personal tragedy while giving the company room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber's history."
Uber declined to comment on Kalanick's departure.
About 30 minutes before The Times reported Kalanick's resignation, the news website Axios reported that Gurley and a handful of other Uber investors, including Fidelity Investments and First Round Capital, were discussing Kalanick's future. "The question is what to do about Travis," one Uber shareholder said, according to the publication. "We're working through it."
Uber's internal troubles began spilling into the public sphere after a February 19 blog post written by former engineer gained traction online. The post, titled "Reflecting on One Very, Very Strange Year at Uber," described a manager propositioning the female engineer, Susan Fowler, for sex. Uber's human-resources department dismissed her complaints, she said, because the manager was a high performer. She said she persisted with her complaints but that Uber's HR ignored them and her manager then threatened to fire her for reporting things to HR.
The blog was just the beginning. More unflattering accounts revealing a toxic culture at Uber would emerge — along with some additional missteps on the part of Uber executives. A four-month investigation would ensue, ultimately leading to 20 firings after the company received more than 215 complaints about its workplace.
Here's the breakdown of all the 215 complaints, according to Uber:
- Discrimination: 54
- Sexual harassment: 47
- Unprofessional behavior: 45
- Bullying: 33
- Harassment (other): 19
- Retaliation: 13
- Physical security: 3
- Wrongful termination: 1
Uber's board unanimously approved all of the recommendations proposed by an external investigation led by former US Attorney General Eric Holder. The company hired Holder in February after Fowler's blog post went viral.
The ride-hailing company sent an email to riders in some markets last week, acknowledging its shortcomings and outlining "radical" changes it said it was making to revamp its workplace.
"In expanding so quickly, we failed to prioritize the people that helped get us here," Uber said in the email. "Ultimately, the measure of our success is the satisfaction of our riders, drivers, and employees — and we realize that we have fallen short."
Here's Travis Kalanick's full email to employees:
This is the email Kalanick sent to Uber employees late on Tuesday night in California:
Subject: A hard decision
I never thought I would be writing this. As you all know, I love Uber more than anything in the world, but at this difficult moment in my personal life, I have accepted the investors' request to step aside, so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight. I will continue to serve on the board, and will be available in any and all ways to help Uber become everything we've dreamed it would be.
Thank you for everything