The exodus at Uber
Company's continuing turmoil leads to more executive turnover
Uber is losing executives faster than it's burning through cash.
The $70 billion company has become well known for spending heavily on rapid growth and undercutting competitors. But Uber's lack of corporate discipline has spurred one public relations disaster after another this year, leading to an exodus of company executives and managers that shows no sign of slowing.
Since the start of the year, 13 high-profile executives have departed, and Uber has not filled many of those roles. A spokeswoman for Uber declined to comment on the departures, beyond what the company said when each person left.
The exodus began with two sexual harassment probes — one led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and another by law firm Perkins Coie. The investigations were sparked in February by a former employee's blog post alleging incidents of sexual harassment and discrimination. Shortly after the post went viral, Uber's senior vice president of engineering, Amit Singhal, was terminated for not telling the company about a harassment complaint against him at his former employer Google, according to a report by Recode.
The Perkins Coie probe has led to the dismissal of more than 20 Uber employees, including executives, according to a Bloomberg report on an internal report released on Tuesday. One of the cases the firm investigated involved Eric Alexander, Uber's head of business in the Asia Pacific, and his handling of a sexual assault case in India. Alexander is no longer with the company, according to a report last week by Recode.
After Anthony Levandowski, the autonomous vehicle engineer at the center of Waymo's intellectual property lawsuit against Uber, took over as head of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group in August, the self-driving car team had its own set of personnel problems, losing senior engineers and security and artificial intelligence experts. Levandowski, who took an aggressive approach to autonomous vehicle development, according to reports, was fired in May for failing to cooperate with internal and court investigations.
Even Uber's uppermost leadership has not been immune to executive flight. After a video surfaced in February showing Uber CEO Travis Kalanick arguing with one of the company's drivers, Uber president Jeff Jones resigned, stating that his beliefs did not align with those of the company. Uber has also lost its head of communications and public policy and head of finance.
After the Kalanick video was highly circulated, the CEO admitted he needed leadership help and said Uber was beginning to look for a COO to assist him. The company also said it was looking for a new general counsel after transitioning Salle Yoo from that role to chief legal officer in May. Uber has yet to fill those jobs — or the CFO position — but created two new executive titles last week: senior vice president of leadership and strategy and chief brand officer. The company hired Frances Frei, a Harvard Business School professor, and Bozoma Saint John, a former Apple marketing executive, to fill the respective roles.
With Holder's report to come and the continuation of Waymo's lawsuit, it's likely more personnel changes are coming. Here are the top executives and managers Uber has lost this year, as of Thursday, June 8:
■ Amit Singhal Senior Vice President of Engineering Singhal joined Uber in January and was dismissed one month later after failing to disclose a sexual harassment complaint lodged against him during his 15-year tenure at Google, according to Recode.
■ Raffi Krikorian Senior Vice President of Engineering, Advanced Technologies Center Krikorian moved to Uber from Twitter in March 2015 to help lead the company's self-driving efforts. He left in February after a leadership change in Uber's Advanced Technologies Group.
■ Charlie Miller Senior Engineer, Autonomous Vehicle Security Uber hired Miller for its security team in September after he and his partner, Chris Valasek, remotely hacked a Jeep Cherokee in a highly publicized demonstration. He resigned in March to join the self-driving car lab of Uber's China competitor, Didi Chuxing.
■ Jeff Jones President Jones was hired in August to lend corporate experience after four years as chief marketing officer at Target. He stepped down in March, stating that "the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber."
■ Brian McClendon Vice President of Maps and Business Platform Formerly an engineer at Google working on Google Maps, Google Earth and Street View, McClendon joined Uber in June 2015 to work on mapping and self-driving technology. He resigned in March to work on politics in his home state of Kansas.
■ Gary Marcus Director, AI Labs Marcus became a part of Uber's artificial intelligence team after his startup, Geometric Intelligence, was acquired by the company in December. He left the post in March to become a "special adviser" on AI for Uber.
■ Ed Baker Vice President of Product and Growth A former Facebook executive who came to Uber in September 2013, Baker stepped down in March, shortly after the company began an internal investigation into sexual harassment claims, according to Recode.
■ Rachel Whetstone Vice President of Communications and Public Policy Whetstone joined Uber in 2015 after 10 years on Google's communications team. She left the company in April as public relations problems continued to build up.
■ Sherif Marakby Vice President of Global Vehicle Programs A Ford Motor Co. veteran, Marakby joined Uber in April 2016 to help the company launch its first autonomous vehicle ride-hailing pilot in Pittsburgh. He resigned in April, returning to Ford as vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification under new CEO Jim Hackett.
■ Anthony Levandowski Vice President of Engineering The self-driving engineer at the center of Waymo's intellectual property lawsuit against Uber, Levandowski officially joined the company after Uber bought his startup, Otto, in August. Before the acquisition, Levandowski had worked on Google's self-driving car project, from which he is accused in a lawsuit of stealing lidar sensor designs. He was fired in May for refusing to cooperate with internal and court investigations.
■ Josh Mohrer General Manager, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania Uber hired Mohrer in its early growth phase in 2012, tasking him many of the regulatory battles in New York City. Mohrer gained attention in 2014 for bragging about tracking a reporter via the Uber app. He resigned in May to join political strategy firm Tusk Ventures.
■ Gautam Gupta Head of Finance Gupta, a former Goldman Sachs executive, joined Uber in 2013, rising up the ranks to lead the rapidly growing company's financial operations in 2015. He stepped down in May to become COO of a San Francisco startup.
■ Eric Alexander President of Business in the Asia Pacific Alexander began managing Uber's Asia Pacific operations in June 2014 and was responsible for growing the company in that region. This month, Recode reported that he was no longer with Uber after an internal probe investigated his handling of a sexual assault case in India, where he allegedly pulled the medical records of the victim to investigate whether her claims were true.
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