Responding to a study by MIT researchers that found low earnings by Uber drivers, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi responded
MIT = Mathematically Incompetent Theories (at least as it pertains to ride-sharing).
Inc.com criticized Khosrowshahi’s response, calling that Tweet inconsistent with a company “eager to learn from its mistakes and play nice with others” and questioning Khosrowshahi’s “mocking tone.”
In litigation with Google about alleged theft of Google intellectual property, Google counsel presented notes from John Bares, then director of Uber’s driverless car center in Pittsburgh, from a December 2015 meeting with Uber then-CEO Travis Kalanick discussing:
TK what we want
all of their data
pound of flesh
On one interpretation, the “what we want” was what Uber wanted from a prospective acquisition of Otto — but notably, what Otto would in turn bring from Google (where key staff had worked previously). In particular, Uber had no fight with Otto and no reason to want a “pound of flesh” from Otto. In contrast, Uber’s tensions with Google were longstanding and well known. In that case, these notes would also indicate Uber intentionally wanting “all of their [Google’s] data” as well as Google’s “source [code]” and more.
Against the advice of then-General Counsel Salle Yoo and without support from then-Chief Business Officer Emil Michael, Uber then-CEO Travis Kalanick pushed forward with the acquisition of Otto, a startup for self-driving trucks.
Bloomberg reports multiple reasons why Kalanick could have been concerned about the deal and Levandowski’s tactics.
One, Otto consisted primarily of ex-Google staff, and Uber’s acquisition of Otto angered Google leaders, including co-founder Larry Page.
Two, before the deal closed, Uber’s investigators learned that Levandowski had possessed five disks of data from Google’s driverless effort including “source code, design files, laser files, engineering documents and software related to Google self-driving cars.” Uber’s investigators also knew that Levandowski’s claims to have destroyed the disks could not be verified. Kalanick said he did not read the investigators’ report.
Three, Levandowski asked Uber to protect him from legal attacks from Google, and Kalanick agreed to do so.
Even when Google sued Uber over the acquisition, and Levandowski invoked the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination to decline to cooperate with litigation, Kalanick continued to support Levandowski, claiming he would eventually be vindicated.
Bloomberg further reports Kalanick calling Levandowski his “brother from another mother.”
While on leave, Kalanick asked Uber’s security team to examine an employee’s email to see if that person was leaking information related to a damaging story.
See Bloomberg report.
Bloomberg reported that Kalanick lobbied to pick his own successor, former GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt. The Uber board rejected this proposal, suspecting that Immelt had promised Kalanick to serve only briefly, facilitating Kalanick’s return.
As part of his resignation, Kalanick had agreed to surrender his seat on Uber’s board as well as two other seats he controlled. But Bloomberg reported that he reneged on this agreement as he unilaterally appointed two board members.
Bloomberg reported that Uber board member Arianna Huffington was accused of self-dealing. For one, she sought to have Uber provide driver hubs with “nap pods” from her new wellness company. Furthermore, Huffington’s new company received $50,000 in consulting fees from Uber, though Uber staff objected to those payments and the funds were ultimately returned.
When pressed to take leave in response to mounting scandals, then-CEO Travis Kalanick was seen not to comply with the leave. Board member Arianna Huffington was seen as his proxy. Bloomberg reported that Uber’s finance team was spreading the word that Kalanick was still in charge. Among Kalanick’s activities while on leave was searching employee emails to investigate leaks.
Bloomberg reported that Kalanick’s handpicked executive team objected to his meddling while on leave and sent a letter asking him to stop.
In June 2017, Kalanick resigned from his position as Uber CEO.
Bloomberg reports that Kalanick’s resignation was to be presented as a graceful departure. But a detailed New York Times article revealed the departure as the ouster it actually was.
After the Uber board forced Kalanick to take leave, Bloomberg reported that other executives and board members suspected that Uber board member Arianna Huffington was serving as his proxy.