When he took over as Uber CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi told employees that he planned to take the embattled ride-hailing company public in 18 to 36 months. And he has the backing of former CEO Travis Kalanick as well as the company’s board, Khosrowshahi revealed at The New York Times DealBook conference on Thursday.
“We have all of the disadvantages of being a public company as far as a spotlight on us, without any of the advantages of being a public company. So Travis and the whole board now agree that we should just go public,” Khosrowshahi said, reiterating that Uber is aiming for an initial public offering in 2019. “The numbers support it. The system supports it etc.”
Last year—before the spotlight on Uber intensified following a series of scandals including an alleged culture of sexual harassment—Kalanick, the founder and then still the CEO, said he would make sure an IPO came “as late as possible.” In 2015, Kalanick compared Uber to an eighth grader, and an IPO to a high school prom.
“It’s a little early. Give us a few years,” he said. The allure of staying private was understandable. Uber had no shortage of investors, and as a private company, it had few concerns about activist investors. But now, the latter worry has intensified for Uber. Investors have been frustrated this year with Kalanick’s leadership of the company—leading to his ouster over the summer. Major Uber investor Benchmark Capital filed a lawsuit seeking to extinguish Kalanick’s power on the board. But an IPO may mollify at least some Uber investors by providing them with long-anticipated returns.
On Thursday, Khosrowshahi also denied speculation that SoftBank had pressured Uber toward the IPO route. In recent months, Uber has been trying to finalize a likely multi-billion investment deal with the Japanese giant. But SoftBank has pushed to shakeup Uber’s board and dilute Kalanick’s influence. Uber agreed earlier this year to add six new seats to its board for a total of 17 members. Two of those seats are expected to go to SoftBank, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Actually if you talk to SoftBank, they don’t have any particular interest in going public,” Khosrowshahi said. “They are the ultimate long-term investor.”