The relationship between ousted Uber founder Travis Kalanick and new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is clearly 'strained'

Kevork Djansezian / StaffUber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi
  • Uber’s former CEO Travis Kalanick has been spotted in Davos attending parties at the World Economic Forum.
  • He was seen at a party with current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in a situation that seemed awkward to onlookers, the two men sitting on opposite sides of the table.
  • The party was held after Khosrowshahi slammed the “moral compass” of Uber under Kalanick’s leadership in an interview.

With a new $US1.4 billion wad of cash burning a hole in his pocket, Uber cofounder, board member and ousted CEO Travis Kalanick is in Davos this week partying with the world’s rich and famous.

Like many others that go to Davos, he was reportedly spotted without a registration badge hanging from his neck – an indication that he wasn’t there to attend the World Economic Forum conference itself but to mingle and network. This is an old trick of his from his struggling startup days, when he couldn’t afford the conference fees, people close to Kalanick told Business Insider. Back then, he used to attend a hot conference, say SxSW, skip the actual conference and just go to the parties, arrange coffee meetings and the like.

It’s not unusual to see Kalanick at a big tech conference. He has steadily been attending them even though he is no longer Uber’s CEO.

We don’t know who he is in Davos to see. But we do know one person he ran into: the CEO he helped hire to replace him, Dara Khosrowshahi.

The two men were spotted at the same dinner party on Tuesday night, hosted by Alibaba founder Jack Ma, where they sat at opposite ends of the same table, New York Times Dealbook reported.

Kalanick carKevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesTravis Kalanick

People said it looked awkward, Dealbook reported, but others told Business Insider that it was assigned seating and the two men were perfectly fine hanging out together.

Still, earlier that morning, Khosrowshahi told CNBC that his relationship with Kalanick these days is “fine but it’s strained.”

Khosrowshahi is now responsible for cleaning up Uber’s reputation from the scandals that led to Kalanick’s resignation last summer.

But Kalanick is still one of Uber’s largest shareholders and a board member. When Khosrowshahi first joined Uber, it seemed like he and Kalanick would be quietly chummy.

Khosrowshahi explained on stage back in conference in November that he asked Kalanick for some space to put his “own stamp on the company and “he took it really well.” Khosrowshahi also implied he planned on keeping Kalanick in the loop, saying, “over a period of time I would be foolish not to use Travis’s incredible genius and his knowledge that really was largely responsible for getting the company to where it’s at.”

The blame game

But things seem to have cooled since November.

New scandals have continued to make headlines and Khosrowshahi has been blaming Kalanick while trying to avoid giving the impression that he’s throwing the former CEO under the bus.

For instance, in that same CNBC interview on Tuesday Khosrowshahi said that the strained relationship was “because obviously there was a lot that happened in the past that wasn’t right and I think the moral compass of the company was not pointed where it needed to be.”

Khosrowshahi explained, “While you don’t want to blame individuals, in the end the CEO of the company has to take responsibility. And I think a lot of the press coverage, etc., is difficult for him [Kalanick], and that’s totally understandable.”

He added that he speaks to Travis about on a monthly basis or as needed. “Travis has been there for me when I’ve needed advice as a board member,” he said.

Here’s the interview that happened hours before the two men saw each other at dinner.

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