Uber’s announcement that it selected Dara Khosrowshahi, who’s the chief executive of Expedia, as its new CEO is regarded as a surprising decision after the board had indicated it was considering two other more conservative industry stalwarts.
That’s after the man who launched Uber, Travis Kalanick, announced in June that he would take an extended leave of absence after the company was revealed as a toxic workplace and his personal ethics were called into question.
His departure came shortly after one of his company engineers, Susan Fowler, in February wrote a blog post detailing sexual harassment allegations and other forms of discrimination during her 12 months at Uber.
Included in her claims were that on day one of her job her manager sexually propositioned her on the company's chat system, but when she brought this to the attention of senior management, her claims were dismissed.
Uber has had a year of bad press, including reports from around the world of driver misconduct, rape allegations, violence and confrontations with taxi owners in countries such as India, South Africa and Germany.
Former US attorney-general Eric Holder was asked to investigate the claims and after interviewing more than 200 former and current employees, he released a list of recommendations to the Uber board to improve what he called a “toxic” workplace culture.
Holder said Uber had done little to protect workers from sexual harassment and retaliation and that the style of leadership was that company policies were vague regarding harassment of women.
Uber had no codes of conduct applying to offsite events and conferences where some of the alleged abuses had taken place. The company fired 20 employees in June 2017 who were accused of alleged sexual misconduct and harassment.
Uber’s board selected Dara Khosrowshahi after meeting two other candidates, Meg Whitman, chief executive of Hewlett-Packard Enterprises, and Jeff Immelt, the outgoing chief executive of GE.
The 48-year-old Khosrowshahi is an Iranian-American who has run Expedia since 2005. It was not known openly that he was in the running at all until late on Sunday, August 27.
Khosrowshahi has presided over the successful growth of Expedia over the past decade.
Uber has experienced severe difficulties in the past year globally with a forced sale of its Chinese operations, a clampdown on its ride-share business in India and reports of incidents involving its drivers in South Africa where passengers and cars have been attacked by angry taxi owners, who say the US company is damaging their business.
Apart from the sexual harassment allegations, other public relations problems emerged with a video of Travis Kalanick berating one of his drivers, then an extended legal battle with Google over the alleged theft of driverless car technology, and that Uber had developed what they called the “Greyball” software to deceive city regulators. They also created an app called “Hell” to spy on a competitor, Lyft.