Uber's CEO said a move to grab power from Travis Kalanick means the board is no longer fighting over control

  • Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said the company’s board is no longer fighting for control after he proposed a new structure last October.
  • His proposals curtailed former CEO Travis Kalanick’s voting power.
  • He said fixing Uber’s governance was his first job as CEO, and that he then moved onto company culture and strategy.
  • Khosrowshahi commented that Uber would one day be profitable – just as the news broke that the company had turned a $US2.5 billion profit.

Uber’s divided board is divided no longer, according to chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi.

Speaking at the VivaTech event in Paris on Thursday afternoon, Khosrowshahi said one of his first actions when taking on the role of CEO was to fix the company’s governance issues.

Khosrowshahi became chief executive in August 2017, replacing ousted CEO and cofounder Travis Kalanick and taking the helm at an extremely troubled time for the company. Uber was under major fire for its treatment of drivers, its cavalier attitude to regulation, and its internal culture. Earlier that year, leaked video showed Kalanick getting into a heated argument with an Uber driver over wages.

To cap it all off, there was a lot of boardroom drama, with a bitter legal feud breaking out between one of Uber’s investors, Benchmark, and Travis Kalanick. Another investor, Shervin Pishevar, waded into the fight. Even after Kalanick was replaced, he tried to maintain control of the company by appointing his own board members.

“When I first came in, the board was very divided in terms of control of the business and where the business was going,” said Khosrowshahi. “We enacted governance reforms that included changing the voting strategy, getting rid of high vote shares etcetera so the board could be united.”

In October, two months into Khosrowshahi’s tenure, the board voted on changes that would reduce the clout of certain board members, particularly Kalanick.

“Now the board isn’t thinking, ‘Who is in control?’, it’s ‘How can we move Uber forward?'” he said.

Khosrowshahi said fixing Uber’s governance was his first task, retooling the firm’s culture was his second, and coming up with the firm’s strategy was third.

He said the management team crowdsourced Uber’s new values from its employees to inform its new slogan: “We do the right thing. Period.”

On strategy, he said the company thought about much more than cars. Earlier on Thursday, Uber announced it would open a research hub for flying taxis in Paris.

“It’s no longer just about cars, we are about urban mobility and however you get around in a city,” he said. “That includes cars, [carpooling service] UberPOOL, bikes now and, yes, also it’s going to include flying cars we hope.”

Khosrowshahi also touched on Uber’s profitability, something that has eluded the company, apparently until now.

Recode reported that the firm turned a $US2.5 billion profit, mostly thanks to the merger of its Russian and Southeast Asian businesses with local competitors. Without that, it would have still posted a loss.

“Of course Uber will be profitable, one day!” Khosrowshahi concluded at VivaTech. “It’d better be.”

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