Uber CEO takes a leave of absence as execs work to rebuild tattered reputation

Travis Kalanick is taking time away from Uber to deal with trauma both corporate and personal.

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CNET

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has decided to take a break from the ride-hailing service for family reasons, as well as to give Uber time to rebuild its reputation after a long chain of scandals.

A company-wide email sent to Uber employees this week explained the executive's plans to take time away -- temporarily -- due to a family tragedy. Kalanick's mother sadly lost her life several weeks ago in a boating accident and has been recently buried.

Her husband, Kalanick's father, is still in critical condition.

As reported by Re.Code, the email sent by Kalanick says that "recent events have brought home for me that people are more important than work," and he needs "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," the executive says. "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," Kalanick added. "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 Kalanick's period of leave, the board will take over the running of the company, while the CEO will be on call for "strategic decisions" if need be.

The decision comes after a meeting between Uber directors which recommended a radical set of changes at Uber, including shaking up the corporate culture to eradicate sexism, removing party-first practices, and also reduce Kalanick's responsibilities as CEO -- as the executive himself has been lambasted for his own attitude and lack of leadership qualities.

In total, 47 changes have been accepted.

The search for a Chief Operating Officer (COO) who would lead the shake-ups made up part of the recommendations, but one is yet to be found to shoulder the task.

The meeting followed the exodus of many executives and the firing of over 20 employees over sexual harassment allegations.

During a meeting on Tuesday in which Kalanick revealed his plans to take a leave of absence, while discussions also took place concerning the allegations of sexual harassment, board member David Bonderman resigned -- ironically, after making a sexist remark at a meeting designed to prevent such behavior taking place in the future.

Bonderman, who is also a board member of Ryanair, later called his comments "careless, inappropriate, and inexcusable."

According to the publication, worldwide business operations will by run by Rachel Holt, Andrew Macdonald, and Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty.

The product team will be the responsibility of Daniel Graf, and engineering will remain under the wing of Uber CTO Thuan Pham.

Human resources chief Liane Hornsey and the SVP of leadership and strategy Frances Frei will take on what may be the most challenging and important roles -- making the organizational and cultural changes so desperately needed by the company, whose reputation is in tatters.

Kalanick does not know how long he will be away.

"It's hard to put a timeline on this -- it may be shorter or longer than we might expect," the email reads. "Tragically losing a loved one has been difficult for me and I need to properly say my goodbyes."

See also: Uber plans to rule the skies by 2020

A court case embroiling Uber and Google-owned Waymo also came to a head last month, with Uber's head self-driving car engineer, Anthony Levandowski, stepping aside and away from the program.

The former Google engineer, accused of stealing documents relating to Google's autonomous vehicle technology, was then fired by the ride-hailing service after refusing to hand over the allegedly stolen files for Uber's own internal investigation.

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