Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Taking Leave of Absence Amid Corporate Turmoil

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Travis Kalanick

"If we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0," the executive wrote in a memo to staff announcing his plans to take time off.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is taking a leave of absence as the ride-hailing company he co-founded implements changes to improve its workplace culture. 

The executive sent a memo to staff Tuesday that was shared with The Hollywood Reporter that reads, "recent events have brought home for me that people are more important than work, and that I need to take some time off of the day-to-day to grieve my mother, whom I buried on Friday, to reflect, to work on myself, and to focus on building out a world-class leadership team." 

Kalanick's parents, Bonnie and Donald, were involved in a boating accident over Memorial Day Weekend that killed his mother and seriously injured his father. "Tragically losing a loved one has been difficult for me and I need to properly say my goodbyes," he wrote in the memo. 

His time off, the length of which has not been specified, coincides with the completion of an investigation into workplace culture at Uber, prompted by a series of reports of sexual harassment. Uber chief HR officer Liane Hornsey said in a statement Tuesday that employees were presented the recommendations from the investigation, conducted by former Attorney General Eric Holder of Covington & Burling, and that the board unanimously approved that the company make those changes.

"Implementing these recommendations will improve our culture, promote fairness and accountability, and establish processes and systems to ensure the mistakes of the past will not be repeated," Hornsey said in her statement. "While changes does not happen overnight, we're committed to rebuilding trust with our employees, riders and drivers." 

The report includes a number of recommendations. Among them are calls for Uber to review and reallocate Kalanick's responsibilities, hire a COO who can be a partner for Kalanick, install an independent board chairman, create an oversight committee, create mandatory leadership training for senior management and perform an unconscious bias review.

Uber has already taken some steps to address the issues. On Monday, Kalanick's second in command, senior vp for business Emil Michael, left the company. Last week, Uber said it terminated 20 people as a result of an ongoing investigation into claims of discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying or other incidents.

"For Uber 2.0 to succeed there is nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team," Kalanick's memo reads. "But if we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve." 

Recode first reported on Kalanick's leave of absence. 

Here is Kalanick's full memo to staff: 

Team,

For the last eight years my life has always been about Uber. Recent events have brought home for me that people are more important than work, and that I need to take some time off of the day-to-day to grieve my mother, whom I buried on Friday, to reflect, to work on myself, and to focus on building out a world-class leadership team.

The ultimate responsibility, for where we’ve gotten and how we’ve gotten here rests on my shoulders. There is of course much to be proud of but there is much to improve. For Uber 2.0 to succeed there is nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team.  But if we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve. 

During this interim period, the leadership team, my directs, will be running the company. I will be available as needed for the most strategic decisions, but I will be empowering them to be bold and decisive in order to move the company forward swiftly.

It’s hard to put a timeline on this - it may be shorter or longer than we might expect. Tragically losing a loved one has been difficult for me and I need to properly say my goodbyes. The incredible outpouring of heartfelt notes and condolences from all of you have kept me strong but almost universally they have ended with ‘How can I help?’.  My answer is simple. Do your life’s work in service to our mission. That gives me time with family. Put people first, that is my mom’s legacy. And make Uber 2.0 real so that the world can see the inspired work all of you do, and the inspiring people that make Uber great.

See you soon,

Travis

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