"You couldn't pay me enough money to take that job" is a response most likely heard when it comes to dangerous (skyscraper window washer), depressing (animal cop), or gross (BART janitor who doesn't hang out in a closet all day). It also apparently applies to the role of CEO at one of the current boom's most infamous companies, if one insider's report is any indication.
Of course the company we're talking about is Uber, the recent travails of which I don't need to detail because we're all intelligent, well-informed people here. And to that point, we all know that since June the company has been without a CEO, when founder and coiner of the nickname "Boober" Travis Kalanick resigned under pressure from multiple investors.
Earlier this month, the Chron profiled John Thompson, the well-known Silicon Valley headhunter tasked with finding Kalanick's replacement. Describing the gig as "the most interesting headhunting assignment in tech," reporter Thomas Lee wrote that Thompson, who is the vice chairman of recruitment firm Heidrick & Struggles' "global CEO & Board of Directors Practice" (that's a mouthful of a title, eh?), faces his "toughest job yet" as he seeks Uber's next head.
Based on a Thursday report from Recode's Kara Swisher, it appears Thompson's slog continues, as many of the high-profile Silicon Valley stars assumed to be on Thompson's shortlist are not interested in the job. Here's who she says won't be taking on the ride-hail company's top slot:
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg: She's "quite happy with her current position and has much better options anyway across the corporate and political spectrum. She’s also already very rich and has, said these sources, no interest in wading into the mess that is Uber."
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki: She's "Also happy and loving the media job she has at the online video behemoth, said sources inside and outside Uber. Also very rich. Also, said sources, Wojcicki is not keen on playing cleanup for a lot of naughty tech boys, even if she is great at that and a lot of other things."
Former Disney COO Tom Staggs: "Does not want to move, nor wade into the muck."
Former Ford CEO Alan Mulally: "Told me flatly on the record that he has no interest and is very happy with his board seats at places like Google and the Mayo Clinic."
Uber board member (among other things) Arianna Huffington: Spokesperson says “Arianna has zero interest in the CEO role and in fact as the chair of the board search committee is fully engaged in finding the best CEO for Uber.”
Former Twitter COO Adam Bain: "He’s unlikely to bite on that job even if it were offered. Plus, the well-liked Bain also has many other options (he has talked about a high-ranking job at Airbnb and has had a lot of investment firm interest too)."
Former Google exec Nikesh Arora: "has not held talks with Uber on this and will not be asked to."
Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer: (Whose recent defense of Kalanick definitely fanned the Uber recruitment rumor flames) "This one is just utterly and profoundly untrue...Mayer has zero background in the complex real-world logistics that running Uber would require and also has a leadership record at Yahoo that is questionable at best."
One of the biggest impediments to finding a new Uber CEO is apparently Kalanick, himself. As Lee noted earlier this month, "The next Uber CEO will need to be mindful of the company’s co-founders, including Kalanick." Swisher put it more brutally Thursday, writing
There are the very pertinent worries about the continued influence of Kalanick, who still is on its board and is a significant shareholder. Many sources say he did not play nice in the COO search and was even obstructive.
“The Travis factor hangs over everything,” said one source, which make the pugnacious CEO seem like a troublesome black cloud or capricious guillotine. Completely accurate, and he might want the job back — I am not kidding here — when he redeems himself too.
But don't expect this tale to end soon. For, though Swisher writes that "the lack of key management at Uber is astonishing given all the incoming it faces on a daily basis against ever-powerful rivals and with all its current travails," Thompson "suggested that he will take his time," Lee writes. And the winning candidate (using "winning" loosely) might have a specific quality lacked by the folks listed above: Advanced age. According to Lee, Thompson "believes that technology firms tend to overlook older, retired executives," quoting him as saying that “Age is the biggest bias in Silicon Valley, even more so than women and minorities." If you say so, pal!