The former CEO may be defending his remaining power from reforms.

By David Z. Morris
October 1, 2017

New Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he’s disappointed that the ride-sharing app’s recently ousted founder Travis Kalanick had appointed two new board members without consulting the rest of company leadership.

In a letter to staff, Khosrowshahi described the move, which may be aimed at helping Kalanick retain power within Uber, as a “complete surprise,” according to Recode.

It’s a major hint that, despite the arrival of a new CEO, chaos is still the name of the game at Uber, and Kalanick is still its main agent. Khosrowshahi is getting a baptism by fire — though baptism might not be the right term, since it’s not going to be over as long as Kalanick is still lurking in the background.

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In the case of the new board appointments, Kalanick may be working to defang governance reform efforts that could leave him with less direct power. Among other changes, the proposal could eliminate voting privileges linked to early shares, and reduce Kalanick’s control of two of his three board seats.

Khosrowshahi refers to those reform efforts, in veiled terms, in the remainder of Saturday’s note. The unexpected board appointments of former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain are “precisely why we are working to put in place world-class governance to ensure that we are building a company every employee and shareholder can be proud of,” he wrote in the note.

That translates roughly to “this is exactly why we need to take Travis Kalanick’s keys away.” In just about a month on the job, Khosrowshahi has already learned that lesson in several ways, including as he scrambles to clean up the mess that Kalanick’s defiant approach to regulators has left in London, one of Uber’s biggest markets.

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