It is one of the biggest CFO jobs on the market.
Uber, the ride-hailing Goliath, is valued at more than $62.5 billion — if you’re to believe the figures it’s reportedly using as it talks to investors about a new $2 billion funding round. And startup is probably the wrong word to call the company with a valuation that’s higher than GM’s market cap.
It has its own China branch, and an elaborate tax structure that spans multiple subsidiaries from the Bahamas to the Netherlands. Its CEO Travis Kalanick is reportedly running roadshow-style presentations to drum up investor interest. And it’s shown no signs of slowing down.
Yet, there’s still no C-level exec leading Uber’s finances.
The only potential candidate named in the press, former eBay finance chief Bob Swan, told Business Insider he has never spoken with Uber.
And there’s no indication Uber will name anybody to the vacant slot soon.
The missing CFO
Uber’s big financial hire was in 2013. The three-year-old startup poached Brent Callinicos, who’d previously worked as the treasurer for both Google and Microsoft.
“I cannot tell you how incredibly excited I am to work with such a great leader and one of the top financial minds in the industry,” said Kalanick in the announcement.
Callinicos scaled Uber’s finances from a startup to multinational operating in 53 countries. When he joined its valuation was more than $3 billion. When he left in March 2015, it was $42 billion.
Callinicos promised to stay close as an advisor and consultant to Uber. No interim CFO was named, but Callinicos’ “right hand on Strategic Finance” Gautam Gupta became acting Head of Finance, according to Kalanick’s note to investors.
That was 11 months ago.
The Wall Street Journal reported last June that the ride-hailing company had reached out to EBay executive Bob Swan among others.
Swan, who is now a venture capitalist at General Atlantic, told Business Insider that he’d never even met with the Uber team — not even a casual conversation.
One person in the tech finance community says Uber reached out to some possible candidates after Callinicos left, but since then the search has cooled. This person now estimates that it will be another six months before Uber makes any headway.
Business Insider has spoken to more than a dozen other investors, CFOs, Uber employees (current and former), and industry leaders. While most people we spoke to expressed surprise that almost a year had passed, no one had heard anything about the search.
Callinicos did not respond to request for comment. Uber declined to comment as well.
One theory about why it works to wait
One professor had a good reason why Uber might be waiting: It’s timing itself for an IPO.
“As much as they sometimes seem like they’re stumbling around getting in trouble in certain cities, it’s actually a company that behind the scenes has people are very financially sophisticated,” said Erik Gordon, a professor specializing in entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan. “They have to have someone. I think the mystery is why they haven’t named it yet.”
In other words, someone is controlling the financial levers behind the scenes, likely Gupta.
Gordon speculates that the company may be holding off because it doesn’t want to appoint a short-time CFO, then have to swap that person out for a different CFO when Uber is ready to go public. And it’s just not ready to pick that public-company CFO yet.
“They could be waiting until they think they’re 12 months from an IPO and bring somebody in who could take them through the experience. Someone who can make sure all of the accounting is done or even restated in a way that satisfies the SEC,” Gordon said.
“If you thought the IPO was three years away, then you wouldn’t hesitate,” says Gordon.
That suggests that Uber’s IPO filing may be coming before 2018, but is unlikely to happen this year. When Uber finally names a CFO, the clock will officially start ticking.
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