DETROIT — Travis Kalanick, the combative and troubled CEO of ride-hailing giant Uber, resigned under pressure from investors.
The company’s board confirmed the move June 21, saying in a statement that Kalanick is taking time to heal from the death of his mother in a boating accident “while giving the company room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber’s history.” He will remain on the Uber Technologies Inc. board.
The move comes at a pivotal time for the largest ride-hailing company. After eight years of phenomenal growth by upending the taxi business, Uber had reached a point where the free-wheeling culture that created the company had become an albatross that threatened to kill it.
In a statement, the 40-year-old co-founder said his resignation would help Uber go back to building “rather than be distracted with another fight,” an apparent reference to efforts on the board to oust him.
The resignation came after a series of costly missteps under Kalanick. Uber has embarked on a 180-day program to change its image by allowing riders to give drivers tips through the Uber app, something the company had resisted under Kalanick.
The San Francisco-based company is trying to reverse damage done to its reputation by revelations of sexual harassment in its offices, allegations of trade secrets theft and an investigation into efforts to mislead government regulators.
Uber’s board said in a statement that Kalanick had “always put Uber first.”
While growing from a small startup, Uber developed a reputation for ruthless tactics that have occasionally outraged government regulators, drivers, riders and its employees.
The company’s hard-charging style has led to legal trouble. The US Justice Department is investigating Uber’s past usage of phoney software designed to thwart local government regulators who wanted to check on whether Uber was carrying passengers without permission.
Uber also is fighting allegations that it relies on a key piece of technology stolen from Google spin-off Waymo to build self-driving cars.
The company has announced that for the first time it will enable passengers to tip its US drivers with a tap on its ride-hailing app as part of a push to recast itself as a company with a conscience and a heart.
It will also start charging riders by the minute if they keep an Uber car waiting for more than two minutes. Uber also is reducing the time that riders have to cancel a ride to avoid being slapped with a $5 fee from five minutes to two minutes after summoning a driver.
Uber won’t take any part of the tips given drivers. It will continue to collect a portion of ride-cancellation fees, as well as the new waiting-time charges.
The tipping option, long available in the app of Uber rival Lyft, will be available in Seattle, Houston and Minneapolis. Uber plans to make it a staple in its app in all US cities by the end of July. The other features will roll out in August.
Uber has had a rough year, largely of it its own making. There have been lawsuits, allegations of sexual harassment and a profanity-laced outburst by its CEO that was caught on video.
Here’s a timeline of Uber’s troubles so far this year.
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- Jan. 28: After President Donald Trump releases his first executive order on immigration, New York taxi drivers protest by refusing to pick up passengers at Kennedy Airport for an hour. Some protesters say Uber tries to capitalize on the protest by picking up passengers anyway, prompting a Twitter protest urging people to delete Uber’s app from their smartphones.
- Feb. 2: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quits President Trump’s council of business leaders amid mounting pressure from employees and customers over the immigration order.
- Feb. 19: A former Uber engineer, Susan Fowler, discloses sexual harassment and sexism claims in a blog post about her year at Uber. Fowler says her boss propositioned her and higher-ups ignored her complaints. Kalanick calls Fowler’s accusations “abhorrent” and hires former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate.
- Feb. 23: Waymo, a self-driving car company spun off from Google, sues Uber. Waymo alleges that Anthony Levandowski – a former top manager for Google’s self-driving car project – stole pivotal technology from Google before leaving to run Uber’s self-driving car division.
- Feb. 28: A video emerges of Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver. It includes yelling and profanity and ends with a combative Kalanick dismissing the agitated driver’s claims that sharp reductions in fares forced him into bankruptcy. In an email to employees, Kalanick admits he needs leadership help. “I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up,” he says.
- March 3: The New York Times reveals that Uber used a phoney version of its app to thwart authorities in cities where it was operating illegally. Uber’s so-called Greyball software identified regulators who were posing as riders and blocked access to them. The US Justice Department is investigating Uber’s use of the Greyball software.
- March 19: Uber’s president, Jeff Jones, resigns less than a year after joining the company. He tells the tech blog Recode that his approach to leadership is at odds with what he experienced at Uber.
- April 18: Sherif Marakby, a global vice-president who leads Uber’s self-driving car program, leaves the company.
- April 27: Levandowski announces he is stepping aside while Uber defends itself against the allegations from Waymo.
- May 11: A federal judge in San Francisco rejects Uber’s request for arbitration and refers Waymo’s case to the US Attorney’s office for a possible criminal investigation. Days later the judge bans Uber from using technology taken from Waymo, but doesn’t order Uber to halt its self-driving vehicle program, as Waymo requested. The case is set for trial in October.
- May 26: Kalanick’s mother dies in a boating accident. His father is seriously injured.
- May 30: Uber fires Levandowski.
- May 31: Uber’s finance chief Gautam Gupta says he plans to leave the company in July.
- June 6: Uber fires 20 people after a law firm, Perkins Coie, investigates complaints of harassment, bullying and retaliation. That investigation, which was separate from Holder’s, checked into 215 complaints; 57 are still under investigation.
- June 11: Uber’s board meets with Holder and adopts a series of recommendations based on his report.
- June 12: Emil Michael, Uber’s senior vice-president for business and a close ally of Kalanick, leaves the company.
- June 13: Kalanick tells Uber employees that he’s taking a leave for an unspecified period, but will be available for “the most strategic decisions.” Uber’s board releases Holder’s recommendations, which include removing some of Kalanick’s responsibilities and replacing Uber’s chairman and founder, Garrett Camp, with an independent chairman. Holder also recommends many cultural and policy changes, from establishing an effective complaint process to recruiting more diverse applicants to prohibiting alcohol and drug use during core work hours.
- June 20: Uber embarks on “180 days of change,” seeking to persuade riders and investors that it is a company with a conscience and a heart. The first move was allowing riders the ability to give drivers tips through the Uber app, something that Kalanick had resisted. Details of the rest of the plan were not made public.
June 21: CEO Travis Kalanick resigns under pressure from investors and the board. He will stay on as a board member.