Uber President Jeff Jones has decided to step down and resign within fewer than six months of assuming the position at the titular ride-hailing company. Throughout this year, a large influx of controversies has entered the company’s ring—concerning allegations of sexual harassment and lawsuits from Google—causing the former president to leave.
Chief Execute Travis Kalanick wrote in a company-wide e-mail: “In 6 months, he made an important impact on the company—from his focus on being driver obsessed to delivering our first brand reputation study, which will help set our course in the coming months and years.” According to the sources with the company, Jones’ departure is effective immediately.
After being filmed arguing with a driver over falling rates and enduring public relations nightmares, Kalanick admitted he needed “leadership help.” Earlier this month, Uber announced its decision to hire a chief operating officer, which would have effectively demoted Mr. Jones, not among the list of candidates being considered. A source told the BBC that Jones was frustrated about the new position, but he told technology news site, Recode, “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.”
Among the controversies Uber has faced, its most pressing issue was assertions of sexual harassment from former engineer Susan Fowler. In her blog post “Reflecting on One Very, Very Strange Year at Uber,” she described the company as “an organization in complete, unrelenting chaos.” She alleged that she had been propositioned for sex and was blocked from advancement, and that Uber’s human resources department did not resolve any of her and colleagues’ sexual harassment allegations. In response to her assertions, the company hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to “conduct an independent review into the specific issues relating to the workplace environment raised by Susan Fowler, as well as diversity and inclusion at Uber more broadly,” according to a memo Kalanick sent.
Aside from harassment allegations, Google had filed lawsuits against the company, claiming the current head of Uber’s self-driving unit, Anthony Levandowski, has illegally downloaded 14,000 documents, stealing trade secrets and committing fraud while he worked for them back in 2015; this past September, he unveiled Uber’s first fleet of self-driving cars. The company has stated these claims to be “a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor and we look forward to vigorously defending against them in court.” Google plans to stop the entirety of Uber’s self-driving business; a hearing is set for April 27. Experts say this case could make or break Uber.
As the company aims to clean up its slew of problems, board member Arianna Huffington stated that Kalanick absolutely has the full confidence of the board to continue leading this company. “Sometimes, companies, like human beings, have to go through a crisis, for major changes to take place. That’s what’s happening at Uber,” she said in an interview with NBC.