Following a scandalous period that lasted for months, Uber has finally chosen the company’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi. There were three finalists being considered for the CEO position, but Uber’s board of directors selected Khosrowshahi as the most able to improve public perception of the company’s image. Khosrowshahi, 48, migrated from Iran when he was nine years old, in an attempt to escape from the Iranian revolution. He was raised in New York, attended Brown University and later served as the chief financial officer, or CFO, of InterActiveCorp, as well as holding various strategic roles that helped the company.
In 2005, Khosrowshahi joined Expedia as its new CEO, where he both helped the company expand internationally and increased its market value significantly. Among those considered for the job of Uber’s new CEO, he was the only one who possessed experience in a travel company. Khosrowshahi’s role in helping Expedia achieve success proves he has the experience, skills and talents that Uber desperately needs right now. A former travel executive CEO is a good fit for a transportation company.
While Uber and its board members hope that the company can repair its negative image, the challenges that Khosrowshahi has to face in doing this are difficult. The leadership of Travis Kalanick, Uber’s former CEO, as well as numerous scandals that were revealed about the company’s practices, led to the marring of Uber’s reputation. This had financial repercussions as well, as Uber lost hundreds of millions of dollars each quarter while its rivals, like Lyft, sustained less losses and gained more revenue. Some of the problems the company faces include accusations of sexual harassment from employees, a sexist workplace and a customer who was allegedly raped by her Uber driver.
These events have all been disastrous for Uber’s publicity. The company was also accused of developing an application which helped them ignore government regulatory rules, an event which reportedly led to them being subjected to a federal investigation.
Other technology companies have also criticized Uber’s self-driving car division for nefarious practices. One company in particular is Google, who has filed a lawsuit accusing Uber of stealing trade secrets. This negative public image has not only affected Uber’s public image, but its image amongst its investors and shareholders. Benchmark, one such investor, filed a lawsuit against Kalanick with the intention of expelling the former CEO from the company.
A judge ruled in Kalanick’s favor, and as a result, he will remain on Uber’s board of directors. Kalanick is also one of the company’s largest shareholders, with his shares giving him approximately 16 percent of Uber’s voting power.
Khosrowshahi, working from within the company, will have to try to bring peace and stability among investors, board members and all of the company’s employees. For a period of time, Uber was operating without a CEO, CFO, chief marketing officer, chief operating officer or president, and many of those positions remain vacant. As the new CEO, Khosrowshahi is the one who is responsible for filling out the C-suite of his company, placing competent, respectable people within these positions.
He will also have to attend to the problems affecting every level of Uber’s hierarchy. After announcing Khosrowshahi as the new CEO, many of Uber’s board, including Benchmark, Arianna Huffington and Kalanick gave him a warm and public welcome to the company. Huffington tweeted, “The board and the executive leadership team are confident that Dara is the best person to … transform, and add value to the lives of drivers and riders around the world while continuously improving our culture and making Uber the best place to work.” With a new CEO installed, optimism pervades the company. In a private meeting, the board met to hear Khosrowshahi’s plans and strategies. A leaked video depicted him stating, “We’re in a battle here. I think everybody knows it. I’m here, I made the decision, I am all in, and I’m going to fight for you with every bone in my body.”
Khosrowshahi has said that he wants to take Uber public sometime in the next three years, an inevitably arduous process because of investors’ doubt in the company. Khosrowshahi’s focus for now will primarily be on “paying the bills” and regaining market share from Uber’s main competitor, Lyft, which benefited from the negative perception caused by the many scandals Uber suffered from. He also wants to create a circle of people that will share his vision and support him in bringing his goals to fruition. As part of his agenda, Khosrowshahi plans to meet and spend quality time with the company’s drivers over the upcoming weeks.
While Uber’s new CEO has much to worry about in the future, his expertise and leadership skills have given both Uber’s employees and investors renewed hope.