Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Just Made a Big Step Toward Getting Some ‘Leadership Help’

Mar 07, 2017

Travis Kalanick is looking for his very own Sheryl Sandberg.

The Uber CEO announced Tuesday afternoon that his ridesharing company is actively looking to hire a chief operating officer. The person will be “a peer who can partner with me to write the next chapter in our journey,” Kalanick writes in a blog post on the company website.

The tech firm has reportedly hired an executive search firm, and it narrowed its hunt to two candidates yesterday, according to Recode. Sources told the publication that Uber’s board would prefer a woman executive for the post. Former Disney COO Tom Staggs and CVS executive Helena Foulkes are allegedly among Kalanick’s “dream candidates.”

The announcement comes after Kalanick's public apology, which he wrote on Feb. 28 after Bloomberg published a video of the CEO engaged in a heated argument with an Uber driver. In the note, he writes:

It’s clear this video is a reflection of me—and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up. This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.

It looks like hiring a No. 2 at the company is Kalanick’s first step in getting the “leadership help” he referenced.

The video is one of a few scandals in which Uber is current embroiled. The tumult started in January when 200,000 customers deleted their Uber accounts as part of a #DeleteUber movement on Twitter. The boycott erupted after users accused the tech company of trying to profit from a taxi driver protest against President Donald Trump’s immigration ban.

Last month, former employee Susan J. Fowler detailed the sexual harassment she says she experienced at Uber. On Feb. 19, Kalanick ordered an "urgent" internal investigation into Fowler's allegations.

Since then, two top Uber executives have left the company. SVP of engineering Amit Singhal resigned after Uber execs were alerted about sexual harassment allegations that the engineer faced in his time at Google. Although it's unclear why exactly vice president of product and growth Ed Baker left, Recode reported that someone had tipped off execs that Baker had "engaged in a sexual encounter with another employee" three years ago.

The move to hire a COO at Uber is reminiscent of when Facebook hired Sheryl Sandberg away from Google to work closely with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and help the company stabilize in 2008.

Uber declined to comment beyond Kalanick’s public statement.

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