Mahesh Kumar A. / Associated Press
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Trouble continues at Travis Kalanick’s Uber. Jeff Jones, who joined the ride-sharing company as its president just seven months ago, took the company’s swirling turmoil over allegations of sexual harassment, illegal activities and theft into overdrive by quitting and stating publicly that his “beliefs and approach to leadership” are inconsistent with Uber’s management.
When Kalanick, the founder and CEO, recruited Jones in late August, he said the former Chief Marketing Officer of Target would bring an “optimism about, and enthusiasm for, our mission.” But earlier this month, Kalanick seemed to torpedo Jones’ authority by publicly announcing he was looking to recruit a Chief Operating Officer to run Uber.
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After Jones went public on LinkedIn with his resignation on March 19, he told Reuters that “I joined Uber because of its mission, and the challenge to build global capabilities that would help the company mature and thrive long term.”
But he viciously attacked Kalanick and the company’s culture when he left by stating: “It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride sharing business.”
Kalanick and Jones met only a year ago at a TED Conference in Vancouver. With Jones replacing board member Ryan Graves, who had long been referred to as “#2” by other employees, analysts touted the Jones arrival as a sign that the 8-year-old start-up was finally growing up by attracting top corporate executives that could comfortably handle the scale of a $20 billion and growing operation.
Jones spent much of his early tenure as Uber’s president building goodwill by meeting with drivers, and then sending them emails about his positive experiences and his Uber future plans. But turmoil spiked last fall, when hundreds of hundreds of thousands of Uber customers deleted their accounts to protest Kalanick’s alleged support for the Trump administration.
Soon after, as Breitbart News norted on December 16, Uber was found to be running an unlicensed self-driving vehicle service in San Francisco, despite angry protests over passenger safety and litigation threats from the city, Department of Motor Vehicles and the California State Attorney General. Uber finally suspended the illegal service.
A week later, Breitbart noted that the board designee for Google Ventures, owners of 7.5 percent of Uber stock (worth $4 billion), resigned. Google Ventures later sued Uber, claiming the theft of its autonomous driving laser-scanning detection system by a company run by an ex-Google engineer that Uber acquired. The complaint states that through the acquisition, Uber allegedly obtained 9.7 GB of Google data and 14,000 documents illegally downloaded to a laptop that was then wiped to hide the crime.
Uber was hammered in mid-February when former site reliability engineer Susan Fowler wrote a blog post claiming Uber reeked of blatant sexual harassment and that the human resources department allowed “high performing” male superiors to solicit sex from female employees. Fowler claimed that if the females didn’t give their superiors what they wanted, the males could give females bad job reviews.
Two weeks later, Kalanick was filmed by an Uber Black driver using a dashboard camera as the driver complained to him that Uber kept cutting driver prices and had bankrupted him. Kalanick blamed the driver for “not taking responsibility” for creating his own situation. The clip went viral and has received over 4 million views on YouTube.
All of this turmoil would be hideous for any consumer company, but Uber’s biggest “belief and leadership” risk for the private company, supposedly valued $62.5 billion, would seem to be never making a profit in 8 years and running at about a $3 billion annual loss rate.