Uber sharply pared back the power of its Chief Executive Travis Kalanick Tuesday as the controversial leader of one of the technology industry’s most visible companies stepped down for an indefinite leave of absence after months of growing controversy.
He disclosed the leave in a company-wide email as the Uber board sought to reverse rising scandal — much of it over allegations of sexual harassment and other unprofessional conduct — that had brought the ride-hailing service to crisis while undermining his hold on power at the company.
Kalanick’s return date is not specified, and his responsibilities will undergo “review” to possibly shift some duties to other executives. He also faces the likelihood of reduced clout on the board, which is adding new “independent” members and creating an oversight committee to monitor efforts to improve corporate ethics and diversity.
“The ultimate responsibility, for where we’ve gotten and how we’ve gotten here rests on my shoulders,” Kalanick wrote in his e-mail to employees. “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.”
In describing reasons for the leave, Kalanick also cited the death of his mother and serious injuring of his father in a boating accident last month, saying, “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.”