Uber's divided board will meet today to try to pick a CEO -- and there may be a third candidate in the running

  • Uber’s voting board, which consists of eight people, is meeting today to try to decide who to name the next CEO.
  • Jeff Immelt and Meg Whitman are both in the running (even though Whitman has publicly said she will not be Uber’s CEO).
  • There may also be a third person in the running: the head of Amazon Web Services.
  • The board is pretty evenly split pretty between Team Travis (those who want him to stick around, and are leaning toward Immelt) and Team Benchmark (those who want him gone and would love to see Whitman take the helm), with a few wildcards.

Uber is at war with itself as two factions within its board try to select a new CEO to replace the car service’s cofounder and board member, Travis Kalanick.

The divided group — the Kalanick supporters and those who want him gone — will meet today to attempt to agree on a new leader for the company.

The two main candidates are former GE CEO Jeff Immelt, who reportedly has the support of Team Kalanick. Recode’s Kara Swisher says Immelt is much more likely to let Kalanick play an active role in the company if he takes the CEO job.

But Meg Whitman — the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, who has publicly denied any interest in being Uber’s CEO — is also being considered. One person familiar with the process says Benchmark — which has an Uber board seat and is currently suing Kalanick for alleged fraud — is trying to “ram through” Whitman. Whitman reportedly wants to keep Kalanick at bay, so she can run the company without him breathing down her neck.

But there may be a third person in the running: the head of Amazon Web Services, according to someone familiar with the process. That’s presumably Andy Jassy, who is CEO of AWS, which operates Amazon’s cloud service, and reports to Jeff Bezos. When we floated that name to an Uber spokesperson, we were cautioned “not to believe rumours.” When we asked if the spokesperson was in a position to know the validity of this particular rumour, the spokesperson declined to say.

The makeup and size of Uber’s board has changed a lot since last summer. In June 2016, Uber’s board expanded from eight to 11 directors, and Kalanick was given the sole right to choose who sat in the three new seats. That expansion is a key part of the lawsuit Benchmark filed earlier this month against Kalanick. Benchmark alleges that when Kalanick pushed for the new seats, Benchmark was not aware of the “gross mismanagement and other misconduct at Uber.”

Benchmark wants those seats eliminated and Kalanick off the board. Kalanick, of course, wants to keep them and maintain control, which would give him an opportunity to potentially return as CEO down the line.

Earlier this summer, following an investigation into the company’s culture, a number of board members left and were replaced. Here’s who will be in the room on Friday to determine Uber’s future and where their allegiances seem to fall, according to a source familiar with their thinking:

Team Benchmark

Matt Cohler

Matt cohlerLinkedInMatt Cohler

Cohler, who was an early Facebook executive, is a partner at Benchmark. He joined Uber’s board this past June when Bill Gurley, Cohler’s fellow Benchmark partner and a former Kalanick champion, suddenly stepped down.

Ryan Graves Travis KalanickRyanGraves.orgRyan Graves, Travis Kalanick and Scooter Braun at SXSW 2013

Ryan Graves
Graves was the first CEO of Uber. He was replaced by Kalanick but stayed on in an executive position for years before announcing his departure last month.

Graves has not been without controversy. He oversaw Uber’s human resources department at the same time that former Uber engineer Susan Fowler alleged she was being sexually harassed and the company did little about it.

At one time a member of Kalanick’s “A Team” of trusted advisors and friends, Graves has in the past few weeks come to lean much more closely toward Benchmark’s position, a person familiar with the situation says. He may even have been in favour of Kalanick’s ousting.

Team Kalanick

Travis Kalanick

Kalanick announced in June that he was taking a leave of absence from Uber. The announcement came right after Holder presented his findings to the board and followed by several weeks the death of Kalanick’s mother in a boating accident. Pishevar alleges that Benchmark took advantage of his absence to push for Kalanick’s resignation. Kalanick stepped down as CEO about a week later. If Benchmark wins the lawsuit against him, he could be booted from the board.

Arianna Huffington

Arianna huffingtonFlickr/C2 MontréalAriana Huffington

Huffington has been a defender of Kalanick, despite the revelations that came out in former Attorney General Eric Holder’s bombshell investigation into the company’s toxic culture. According to a letter written by early Uber investor Shervin Pishevar, the Benchmark camp wants to remove her from the board, possibly because of her support for Kalanick.

Yasir bin Othman Al-Ruayyan

Al-Ruayyan is Chief Executive of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, a large investor in Uber. The Fund poured a few billion into Uber in mid-2016.

Wild cards

Garrett Camp

Garrett campFlickr/JoiGarrett Camp, CEO at Expa

Camp, who created StumbleUpon and startup incubator Expa, cofounded Uber with Kalanick. He has come out publicly and said Kalanick will not return as Uber’s CEO. But that may not make him anti-Kalanick. One friend of Camp’s said he may not have meant by his statement that Kalanick would be gone “forever.”

David Trujillo

Trujillo, a partner with investment firm TPG, is new to the board. He replaced fellow TGP partner David Bonderman after Bonderman made an insensitive joke about women during an Uber all-hands meeting. A source describes him as not necessarily on Team Benchmark, but also not a member of Team Kalanick.

Wan Martello

Martello is the former CFO of Nestle. Martello is described as relatively independent, siding with one party or the other depending on the issue at hand.

In sum: It’s a pretty even split

The board currently seems to be comprised of two members who are definitely on Team Benchmark, three who are on Team Kalanick, and three with uncertain allegiances. Of those wild cards, one seems to lean toward Benchmark, another toward Kalanick, and the third seems to be truly independent.

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