Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Takes Leave of Absence to ‘Reflect’ and ‘Work on’ Himself

'If we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve'

See ya later. Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

It’s official—Travis Kalanick is out at Uber for an undetermined amount of time.

The founder and CEO’s leave of absence was announced this morning during an internal meeting at the company’s San Francisco headquarters. In a memo sent to staff and obtained by the Observer, Kalanick said he is taking time away from the company to grieve for his mother and “to reflect, work on myself and building out a world class leadership team.”

Regarding the length of the absence, Kalanick said it’s “hard to put a timeline, undetermined.”

Here is the memo in its entirety:

Team,

For the last eight years my life has always been about Uber. Recent events have brought home for me that people are more important than work, and that I need to take some time off of the day-to-day to grieve my mother, whom I buried on Friday, to reflect, to work on myself, and to focus on building out a world-class leadership team.

The ultimate responsibility, for where we’ve gotten and how we’ve gotten here rests on my shoulders. There is of course much to be proud of but there is much to improve. For Uber 2.0 to succeed there is nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team.  But if we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve.  

During this interim period, the leadership team, my directs, will be running the company. I will be available as needed for the most strategic decisions, but I will be empowering them to be bold and decisive in order to move the company forward swiftly. 

It’s hard to put a timeline on this – it may be shorter or longer than we might expect. Tragically losing a loved one has been difficult for me and I need to properly say my goodbyes. The incredible outpouring of heartfelt notes and condolences from all of you have kept me strong but almost universally they have ended with ‘How can I help?’.  My answer is simple. Do your life’s work in service to our mission. That gives me time with family. Put people first, that is my mom’s legacy. And make Uber 2.0 real so that the world can see the inspired work all of you do, and the inspiring people that make Uber great.

See you soon,

Travis

While Kalanick mostly discussed personal reasons including the recent passing of his mother, his break coincides with an investigation into sexism, harassment and an overall toxic culture at the company, for which he himself has been blamed heavily. The findings from an independent investigation into these issues conducted by former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and his law firm, Covington & Burling, were just released. First on the list of ten recommendations detailed in the report is “changes to senior leadership.”

“Review and reallocate the responsibilities of Travis Kalanick,” the report reads. “The Board should evaluate the extent to which some of the responsibilities that Mr. Kalanick has historically possessed should be shared or given outright to other members of senior management.”

In a Sunday meeting, board members voted unanimously to adopt all recommendations from the “Holder Report.” They also discussed suspending Kalanick. With all this, the leave is not a surprise and was the subject of media speculation. In light of his absence, the “war room” has already been named the “peace room,” according to reports. Liane Hornsey, HR chief, apparently also asked everyone in the room to stand up and give each other a hug. She also thanked Susan Fowler, who was not in the room but sparked the investigation with her viral story of her time at Uber.

Other recommendations listed in the report are:

II. Enhance board oversight

III. Internal controls (including updates to HR record keeping and enhancing the size, role and independence of the Audit Committee)

IV. Reformulate Uber’s 14 cultural values.

V. Training (more and better training for executives, management and HR)

VI. Improvements to HR and the complaint process (including the hiring of an “owner” of HR-related policies and implementation of protocol for escalating complaints)

VII. Diversity and inclusion enhancements

VIII. Changes in employee policies and practices (including updates to discrimination and harassment policies, removal of transfer bias and modifications to Uber’s review process)

IX. Address employee retention.

X. Review and assess Uber’s pay practices.

Last week, Uber fired more than 20 employees after a completely separate investigation into workplace culture conducted by a law firm hired by Uber, Perkins Coie.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Takes Leave of Absence to ‘Reflect’ and ‘Work on’ Himself