At an all-hands meeting Tuesday morning, Uber addressed rumors that the company’s former CEO Travis Kalanick is plotting a return to power.
The ride-hail giant’s General Counsel Salle Yoo told employees that while the company is appreciative of Kalanick’s role in building Uber, the search for a new CEO isn’t focused on the past.
“The future is bright and we are looking forward,” she said, according to an employee who attended the meeting.
But earlier this week, Recode reported that Kalanick was talking privately about orchestrating a return to Uber. The chatter caused confusion in the board’s ongoing CEO search; Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman withdrew her name from consideration for the role without warning during a meeting in which the board planned to vote on her appointment, according to the New York Times.
Uber is currently being managed by a multi-member executive team, which took advantage of Tuesday’s all-hands meeting to quell any discussion of a Kalanick comeback. At the same meeting, Uber HR head Liane Hornsey gave employees an update on the company’s efforts to meet recommendations for improving company culture. Hornsey said Uber will be establishing an outside advisory council on diversity made up of academics and other experts. She also told employees that Uber has exceeded its goals for pay equity; the company announced raises for thousands of employees at a meeting two weeks ago.
Uber declined to comment on this story.
While critics have blamed Kalanick’s style of leadership for contributing to Uber’s contentious and combative workplace, there are also many employees inside the company who remain loyal to him and would be happy to see him return. Two days after he resigned, a group of employees circulated an internal petition asking for Kalanick to be reinstated.
Meanwhile, Kalanick’s name has been popping up in the ongoing lawsuit between Uber and Alphabet’s self-driving car company Waymo over allegedly stolen intellectual property. Kalanick was deposed last week, and emails linking him to the decision to offer indemnity to Anthony Levandowski, the former Waymo employee at the heart of the suit, became public yesterday. Waymo has accused Levandowski of stealing self-driving trade secrets and giving them to Uber after it acquired his autonomous trucking startup Otto.
According to Waymo’s legal team, a digital forensics expert recovered hundreds of deleted text messages between Levandowski and Kalanick that will be handed over to Waymo’s lawyers today. (Uber has denied that Kalanick intentionally deleted text messages between himself and Levandowski.) After that, Waymo will have the chance to depose Kalanick for a second time, for a total deposition time of more than seven hours.
So while it sounds like Kalanick won’t be returning to his role as Uber CEO, he’ll have plenty to keep him busy.
Caroline O'Donovan is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
Contact Caroline O'Donovan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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