On Sunday, Uber’s board offered the top job at the company to Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Expedia.
The job, should he accept it, represents just another milestone for the 48-year old Khosrowshahi, who has lived an extraordinary life of both hardship and influence.
He is now firmly in the spotlight as he takes over the Valley’s most valuable startup — worth more than $US60 billion — and one that’s been under a microscope due to its meteoric growth and its well-chronicled troubles.
Here’s the incredible story of Khosrowshahi’s journey from refugee to tech mogul:
Dara Khosrowshahi is 48. He was born in Iran, although he is now a US citizen. His last name is pronounced 'Cause-Row-Sha-hee'
He was born into a prominent and wealthy family, founders of a major Iranian conglomerate involved in pharmaceuticals, chemicals, food, distribution. During the Iranian revolution, the company was seized and nationalized by the new government and his extended family fled the country.
Khosrowshahi arrived in the US when he was nine years old, an Iranian refugee. His family moved in with one of his uncles in Tarrytown, New York, a town with upscale roots on the eastern shore of the Hudson River, 25 miles north of Manhattan. Rockefeller had built a mansion there in 1906.
He and his cousins attended an Ivy league private prep school in Tarrytown called Hackley School. Previous students included George Hamilton and oil billionaire Fred Koch. He remembers those early years in the US fondly. 'For the grown-ups, it was a difficult transition. The kids were able to party together, so it was fun.'
Another one of his uncles is the billionaire Hassan Khosrowshahi, who chose to go to Canada when the family fled from Iran. Hassan founded an electronics company called Future Shop (sold to Best Buy) and then created a conglomerate holding company that licenses pharmaceuticals and music.
All this means Khosrowshahi has a network of family members that are big wigs in the business and tech worlds well beyond Expedia ...
For instance, his brother Kaveh Khosrowshahi is a managing director at Allen & Co., the investment bank best known for its ultra exclusive Sun Valley conference. A few cousins are Google execs. His cousin Amir Khosrowshahi is at Intel after Intel bought the AI company he co-founded, Nervana, last year for $400 million. His twin cousins Ali and Hadi Partovi sold their startup to MySpace back in 2009 for $20 million and went on to become power angels backing Airbnb, Dropbox, Uber, and Facebook and cofounding Code.org.
Not that life after Iran was all rosy. When Khosrowshahi was 13, his father went back to Iran to care for his own father, and the country would not let him leave for six years.
After earning an electrical engineering degree at Ivy league school Brown University, Khosrowshahi began his career in finance, working at Allen & Co through the 1990s. He still often attends the firm's famous Sun Valley conference.
He took an exec role at USA Networks and launched its early streaming efforts. 'I was a complete failure,' he said of the experience. 'The cost of streaming content was higher than any advertising dollars you could earn. The better you did, the more you lost.'
Despite the humility of that statement, he wasn't considered a failure. He was actually the protégé of media industry icon Barry Diller. USA changed its name to InterActiveCorp (IAC) and on July 2001 Diller and Khosrowshahi crafted a deal to buy Expedia from Microsoft for about $1.3 billion.
Two months later, before the deal closed, 9/11 happened. In addition to the tragic loss of 3,000 lives, the incident also stymied the travel industry. It was a seminal moment for Khosrowshahi, 'We had the opportunity to pull out. Barry said, ‘People are going to keep living and traveling, so we’re in,' he said.