Top executives of ride-hail giant Uber, CEO Travis Kalanick and Senior Vice President of Business Emil Michael, will possibly find themselves in hot water as the corporate board of directors decides their fate with the company. This news comes on the heels of the firing of Eric Alexander, Uber’s President of Business in Asia, following yet another episode of misconduct within the company’s ranks, this time regarding illegally obtained medical records of a New Dehli, India woman who was raped by an Uber driver.
Uber’s board members are meeting today to discuss a “leave of absence” for Kalanick, who just weeks ago promised that he would find the “leadership help” that he admitted he needed after a solid month of scandals rocked the company. Kalanick, who is also the founder of the company, emailed his pledge to Uber employees after video surfaced showing him arguing with an Uber driver who had just given his boss a ride.
Now, after an investigation into the company by former attorney general Eric Holder, the results of which will be discussed at today’s board meeting, Michael is under pressure to hand in his resignation as SVP of Business rather than a publicly humiliating firing. The company has already fired 20 employees over allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct, and discrimination that came out of the investigation.
Uber SVP Emil Michael was implicated in a number of instances of inappropriate behavior, including a visit to an escort bar in South Korea with the now-fired Eric Alexander, and his involvement in the New Dehli medical records incident with Alexander, among others. It was reported that Michael was planning to resign from Uber as early as Monday, although sources close to him say that he has not yet made his decision and is weighing his options for the future. However, many at the company believe that Michael is “untouchable” due to his close alliance with CEO Kalanick, and would be surprised to see him step down.
Kalanick himself has been dealing with some major problems within the company, including a leaked 2013 internal email outlining rules regarding conduct including sex with coworkers at an Uber party thrown in Miami. In the letter, Kalanick makes it clear that Uber will not be held responsible for any employees wrongdoing, but did not expressly forbid those activities from occurring.
“We do not have a budget to bail anyone out of jail” one line of the email stated. “Don’t be that guy.”
Another guideline set out was “There will be a $200 puke charge for any public displays on the Shore Club premises. Shore Club will be required to send pictures as proof,” which could be interpreted as a “just don’t get caught” clause.
These are not the only problems Kalanick has been facing, including the recent and unfortunate accidental death of his mother, whose funeral was held on Friday. He was also reported to have visited the escort bar with Michael and Alexander, and the behavior of his top executives and closest allies also calls into question his leadership abilities. These concerns are expected to be included in the discussion among the board members at their Los Angeles meeting Sunday.
Many are speculating that if Michael does, in fact, leave Uber, it would actually help the company to fix some of its internal problems as well as to clean up its tarnished public image. But that vacancy, along with Kalanick’s potential leave of absence, would be another empty leadership role, which currently includes the COO, CFO, CMO, General Counsel, and SVP of Engineering. Uber leadership could be assumed by a management firm, or an internal executive may be tapped to take over in the interim.
Uber, which is currently valued at an estimated $69.8 billion, is feeling backlash as investors’ confidence in the company has become shaken by the months of scandals. Uber’s stock was around $40 per share at the beginning of the year, and have since dropped about 15 percent to hover in the mid-to-high 30s. Certainly, the future of Uber and its top executives Travis Kalanick and Emil Micheal are hanging in the balance of the Holder report and the decisions handed down by the board of directors today.
[Featured Image by Seth Wenig/AP Images]