Uber mulls bringing in new public face

Uber mulls bringing in new public face
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Uber is mulling hiring a senior deputy after a string of negative headlines in recent weeks.

Executives at the ride-hailing firm have reportedly discussed whether to hire someone to serve as a public face of the company in an effort to take some of the heat off Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who has struggled to contain the fallout from recent controversies at the company and has even created new ones himself.

Kalanick confirmed the news Tuesday, writing in a post that "we’re actively looking for a Chief Operating Officer: a peer who can partner with me to write the next chapter in our journey."

The The Wall Street Journal likened the role to Sheryl Sandberg, who serves as Facebook’s chief operating officer while co-founder Mark Zuckerberg remains CEO.

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But the report noted that Kalanick’s pugnacious leadership style has helped catapult the scrappy startup into a tech and transportation giant, which is why Uber executives are being careful to avoid major shakeups that could fundamentally alter the company’s formula for success.

Uber has been scrambling to correct course after a rocky stretch of missteps. The company caused an uproar — and sparked the “delete Uber” campaign — when it dropped surge pricing during a taxi strike at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport following President Trump’s first executive order on immigration last month.

The ride-hailing firm is also battling sexual harassment allegations, a lawsuit from Google and reports that Uber used a secret software tool to evade authorities.

Uber lost two senior executives in a week, including one who resigned after it was learned he did not disclose sexual harassment allegations at a prior job.

And Bloomberg last week published a video of Kalanick getting into an argument with an Uber driver who blamed Kalanick for bankrupting him.

Kalanick finished the exchange by accusing the rider of not taking “responsibility for [his] own shit.”

Uber and Kalanick have sprung into crisis mode. In an apology note to staff, the Uber CEO expressed shame over the video recording of himself and vowed to “fundamentally change” as a leader.

“This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it,” he wrote.

Eric Webber, who does public relations at the Texas-based firm Mcgarrah Jessee and teaches at the University of Texas’s advertising and public relations school, told The Hill last week that some of the problems were made worse by Kalanick’s management style.

“Part of the problem is in the very structure where you have a CEO who does everything,” Webber said. “I know he has people who work for him, but from the outside it seems like he’s trying to do too much.

“A brand or company wants to be in control of the message, but that doesn’t mean one person should be in control of the message.”