Six contenders to be Uber's new CEO

Six contenders to be Uber's new CEO
© Getty

The search is on for a new CEO at Uber. After Uber and its CEO Travis Kalanick’s reputations were damaged by revelations of misconduct and other missteps in the past several months, Kalanick finally stepped down earlier this week.

Now the company, which is battling accusations of sexism in the workplace, a lawsuit from Google over allegedly stolen technology and a federal probe over privacy issues, is trying to fill the void at the top and claw its way out of controversy.

Observers believe a chief step in that process is finding a capable new CEO who will avoid problems in a way Kalanick didn't.

ADVERTISEMENT
Uber’s board met with three new directors to discuss the CEO search this week, with members eyeing a six-week timeline to find a replacement, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Uber has not yet had an initial public offering for its stock, but is valued at $50 billion by investors, making the CEO post an attractive, high-profile job.

But the search may prove challenging. Kalanick’s pugnacious and controversial leadership style has often been credited with catapulting the scrappy startup into a tech and transportation giant in just a few short years, and shareholders may be reluctant to fundamentally alter Uber’s formula for success.

Here’s who could take the wheel at Uber and help the company correct course:

 

Sheryl Sandberg

The Facebook chief operating officer has a very different reputation from Kalanick in Silicon Valley. Many see her as a steady hand who could have avoided many of his missteps.

Her experience in government would also be useful at a company that is increasingly under the scrutiny of lawmakers and regulators.

Before Facebook, Sandberg worked under then-Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

Uber has long fought to keep its ride-hailing model legal, and as it ramps up its work on self-driving cars, it will face a new round of regulatory hurdles that Sandberg could help navigate.

And she may be the frontrunner for the post. Insiders told the New York Post that Sandberg is the board's "top choice."

“Sheryl is seen as exactly what this company needs right now,” another source told the paper.

But Sandberg may be a hard sell. Sources close to her told the AP she’s not interested in leaving Facebook anytime soon.

 

Susan Wojcicki

The YouTube CEO was first seen as a potential candidate for to be Kalanick's number two in March, when the company decided he needed help.

Wojcicki has been in charge of Google’s video streaming subsidiary since 2014 and is a longtime employee of the Mountain View, Calif. giant. She managed the transition after YouTube was acquired in 2006.

She's also been outspoken on Silicon Valley’s problems with gender discrimination, writing an op-ed titled "How to break up the Silicon Valley boy's club."

Some belive Wojcicki could help change Uber's culture.

“I think [Uber’s problem] is an HR issue, not a PR issue,” said Matt Rizzetta CEO of North 6th Agency, a public relations company. “They need to look for a culture-first leader.”

Uber, according to the New York Post report, has a strong desire to hire a woman for the top spot.

 

Thomas Staggs

Staggs, like Wojcicki, had also been floated as a potential contender for Uber’s number two executive. Staggs previously served as Disney’s chief operating officer from 2015 to 2016. He was also the company’s chief financial officer, where he managed Disney’s acquisition of Pixar.

That financial know-how could be a boon to Uber ahead of its own IPO.

Rizzetta said Staggs could also bring lessons from Disney's corporate culture.

“If I’m sitting in the boardroom ... I would look at Fortune 500 level leaders who develop employee first cultures,” Rizzetta said. “Some models of that include Adobe and Disney."

Staggs left Disney after not being promised the top spot. At the time, some of his critics questioned his work as COO.

 

Mark Fields

The former CEO of Ford Motor Co. is fresh out of a job and armed with years of experience managing a global auto giant, which is why his name has been floating in transportation circles as a prime candidate for the Uber gig.

Fields has been working in the automotive industry for decades, having risen through the ranks at Ford until he was eventually tapped to serve as CEO in 2014.

Transportation experts say Fields can bring the necessary leadership, manufacturing and marketplace knowledge to Uber as it seeks to expand its business beyond just a ride-hailing firm.

“Uber needs a grown-up, and Fields is that,” wrote Doron Levin, an automotive contributor for Forbes. “Fields has been a standout executive in the global automotive business for decades and performed well for Ford as CEO. He showed no obvious delinquencies or deficiencies.”

However, Fields was ousted at Ford in May, after coming under fire for declining stocks and for falling behind in the race to develop driverless cars.

That could be problematic for Uber, which has made aggressive moves to pursue autonomous vehicle technology.

 

Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxTo address America's crumbling infrastructure, follow Britain's lead Report: Chao has used government planes seven times this year Week ahead in tech: Lawmakers turn focus to self-driving cars MORE

Another possible contender, though likely a long shot, is a name well known in the transportation world: former Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The ex-mayor of Charlotte, N.C., led the Department of Transportation under the Obama administration from 2013 to 2017.

As with Sandberg, his work in government could help Uber navigate the regulatory environment and develop a relationship with policymakers, especially as the company increasingly shifts its focus to the federal level.

But Foxx’s broad vision for transportation also seems to fit in line with Uber’s mission.

During Foxx’s tenure, the agency issued the first-ever federal guidelines for driverless car developers and doled out hundreds of millions in “smart city” grants to encourage the use of new transportation technologies around the country.

Foxx’s efforts have been largely driven by his belief that transportation has the power to lift up disadvantaged communities, where a lack of mobility often hinders access to healthcare, jobs and education.

Ride-hailing services and driverless cars — two staples of Uber’s business model — have both been hailed for their potential to enhance mobility.

“I want to be the 21st century’s Robert Moses who can figure out how to untangle the web of things that connect us,” Foxx recently said at an infrastructure event hosted by The Atlantic.

 

Marissa Mayer

The former Yahoo CEO is also seen as a top potential candidate for Uber's top spot.

Mayer recently stepped down from her role as chief executive of Yahoo after completing its $4.5 billion sale to Verizon.

Mayer was thrust into the public eye when she was poached from Google to be the CEO of Yahoo in 2012. Her reputation took a hit after she was unable to turn Yahoo around.

Mayer took the blame from many for not reversing Yahoo's declining value.

But she also has many staunch defenders in Silicon Valley who say she inherited insurmountable problems.

“It was an incredibly tough hand to be dealt,” one professor at Yale’s School of Management told the Washington Post.

Silicon Valley venture capital titan Marc Andreessen tweeted in 2015 as Yahoo struggled that Mayer was a “hero” for taking on the company's challenges.

At Uber, Mayer would also be taking over a troubled company, but one with a different set of problems.