March 21, 2017 / 10:52 PM / 4 months ago

Uber board backs CEO Kalanick, still looking for chief operating officer

3 Min Read

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick attends the summer World Economic Forum in Tianjin, China, June 26, 2016.Shu Zhang

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc plans to keep co-founder Travis Kalanick as chief executive following a series of damaging events at the ride services company, a member of its board said on Tuesday in a rare call with reporters.

"The board has confidence in Travis," said Arianna Huffington, co-founder of news site Huffington Post and one of seven voting Uber board members. The possibility of him resigning has not "come up and we don't expect it to come up," she said.

But she added that Kalanick, 40, needed to change his leadership style from that of a "scrappy entrepreneur" to be more like a "leader of a major global company."

The privately held company, valued at $68 billion, is pushing ahead in its search for a chief operating officer to help Kalanick run the business, but gave no hints on possible candidates or timing of an appointment.

Huffington and three Uber executives on the call said they were working on repairing the company's tarnished image and improving its culture and leadership after a series of embarrassing setbacks, including allegations of sexual harassment from a former employee and the recent departure of its president, Jeff Jones, who cited deep misgivings about the company. Kalanick was not on the call.

Uber expects to conclude an internal investigation into the sexual harassment allegations by the end of April, Huffington said The investigation was prompted by a former Uber employee who last month published a blog post describing a workplace where sexual harassment was common and went unpunished.

Huffington is part of a committee - along with Uber board members David Bonderman of TPG Capital and Bill Gurley, a venture capitalist at Benchmark and close adviser to Kalanick - that will review the findings of the investigation.

Huffington pledged to make those findings public.

Meanwhile, the search for a COO - announced two weeks ago by Kalanick - is continuing, Huffington said, without mentioning any candidates by name or saying when the job would be filled. She said the COO, a role that has not previously existed at Uber, will be a "true partner" to Kalanick.

"This is the first time that Travis has really understood the importance of having a partner," said Liane Hornsey, Uber's chief human resources officer, on the call.

News service Bloomberg last month released a video that showed Kalanick berating an Uber driver who had complained about cuts to rates paid to drivers, resulting in Kalanick making a public apology and admitting he needed leadership training.

Reporting by Heather Somerville; Editing by Bill Rigby

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