By Eric Newcomer, Bloomberg News
Dara Khosrowshahi, the new chief executive officer at Uber Technologies Inc., laid out an initial set of plans during a staff meeting Tuesday to get the troubled ride- hailing company back on course. He said his top priority was hiring a chief financial officer who can help the company balance its need to control spending with continued growth, said two people who listened to the presentation.
Khosrowshahi is also seeking a replacement for Uber’s longtime legal head though the topic didn’t come up at the meeting, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. Hours later, Chief Legal Officer Salle Yoo sent an email to employees, saying she would step down after helping Khosrowshahi find her successor.
Yoo has been in charge of Uber’s legal efforts for about five years. Although she was mostly successful in helping the company navigate tricky regulatory quandaries, the San Francisco company now faces a legal nightmare. The issues include federal probes into potential foreign bribes and the use of software to thwart law enforcement stings, as well as lawsuits alleging mistreatment of drivers, mishandling of a rape victim’s medical records in India, trade-secrets theft and illicit efforts to sniff out information from competitors.
The announcement of Yoo’s departure was precipitated by a report Tuesday in technology website The Information, she said in the email obtained by Bloomberg. Yoo suggested she would take time off before going to work on a new venture. “Please know that I am enormously proud of the work that we have accomplished together,” she wrote.
Yoo’s exit wasn’t a surprise to insiders, who have grown concerned as Uber’s legal woes pile up. Joseph Spiegler, the global head of compliance who was tasked with ensuring Uber follows the law, also resigned recently. But Yoo’s position is a particularly vital role Khosrowshahi needs to fill, among many others. Executive turnover has been extensive this year, with the losses of the company’s president, two board members, and the heads of business, engineering, finance, policy, product and self-driving cars.
Khosrowshahi, the former Expedia Inc. CEO who took over Uber last week, told employees Tuesday he’s not convinced the company needs a chief operating officer, said a person who attended the meeting. His predecessor, Travis Kalanick, had said he needed to find someone for that role to provide leadership help. Khosrowshahi, 48, reaffirmed that he wanted the board to bring on an independent chairman.
While financial discipline is a big objective for the new CEO, he said he doesn’t want it to come at the expense of market share. That’s easier said than done. Uber lost $645 million in the second quarter, even as its main U.S. competitor Lyft Inc. managed to add customers. Khosrowshahi said the path to regaining market share would be by improving the company’s reputation.
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