Uber's second in command, Emil Michael, the company's senior vice president for business and a close confidant of CEO Travis Kalanick, is leaving the company Monday as was predicted by several news sources over the weekend. As the New York Times reports, Michael announced his departure to all company's employees in an email Monday morning, though it remains unclear whether he resigned or was terminated. What is fairly clear is that Michael is the most high-ranking casualty to follow on a months-long internal investigation led by former US Attorney General Eric Holder, at the behest of Uber's seven-member board of directors, following allegations of widespread sexual harassment and unprofessional behavior rising to the company's highest levels. Many in the company have yet to see the full report by Holder and his law firm, which was also prepared by Holder's partner Tammy Albarran.
20+ employees were already terminated last week as a result of a separate probe conducted by the law firm Perkins Coie into 215 human resources claims made at the company.*
According to the Washington Post, Michael's seat on the board has been filled by an outsider, Nestle Executive Vice President Wan Ling Martello. In his departure email, Michael said, "Uber has a long way to go to achieve all that it can and I am looking forward to seeing what you accomplish in the years ahead."
Also in the email he spoke of joining the company four years ago and helping make it "the fastest-growing company of all time."
Michael's position at the company will be filled by David Richter, a business development executive.
Uber's seven-member board, which also includes Kalanick, co-founder Garrett Camp, and Arianna Huffington, had a closed-door meeting Sunday in Los Angeles in which they were also said to be discussing a leave of absence for Kalanick himself. No confirmation on that decision has yet been announced, though Reuters has it from a source that Kalanick is "likely" to take a leave, though a final decision was apparently not reached on Sunday.
Forbes reports that the Uber board unanimously approved the recommendations in the Holder report, and that the full report will be released to all employees on Tuesday.
The Uber leadership shake-up has begun. Emil Michael is out.https://t.co/XDiJm14gAM— Mashable (@mashable) June 12, 2017
Emil Michael's tenure at the company was not without its rough spots. He was at the center of one of Uber's earliest public scandals, when in 2014 he was allegedly caught bragging about spending $1 million to investigate the private lives of journalists who were critical of Uber. Foreshadowing the widespread reports of sexism at the company that came out this year, tech writer Sarah Lacy of PandoDaily had accused the company of sexism and misogyny back then, hearing enough rumors from within, and she became a prime target of Michael's alleged opposition research campaign an effort he later claimed was more fantasy than reality.
Citing knowledge from key investors at the company, Lacy wrote back in 2014 that "an ever-worsening frat culture where sexist jokes and a blind eye here-or-there have developed into a company where the worst kind of smearing and objectification of women is A-ok."
Note the tweet from Pando retweeted by Lacy in the last hour.
Kudos to the Uber board for voting to implement the recommendations made in our reporting from 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017...— Pando (@PandoDaily) June 12, 2017
On Sunday, Recode suggested that several other high-level executives could be "in the cross-hairs" and facing termination or forced resignations, including board member Ryan Graves, who oversaw HR, and CTO Thuan Pham, who was implicated specifically in the allegations made by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler back in February that largely put this ball in motion, ending in the Holder report.
Huffington, who has been seen as leading the board's effort to "right the ship" over the last several months, pledged in February to hold executives' "feet to the fire" in this investigation. She has served on the board since April 2016, and as this scandal was emerging Kalanick tweeted that Huffington had his "full support."
* This post has been corrected to clarify that the terminations last week were the result of a probe separate from the one led by Holder.