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2017-06-23 05:39:02
‘Nobody Is Perfect’: Some Uber Employees Balk at Travis Kalanick’s Exit

Uber and its investors are facing a backlash over Travis Kalanick’s departure as chief executive — particularly from employees.

Starting late Wednesday, Uber employees circulated a petition asking the company’s board of directors to bring back Mr. Kalanick in an active role. More than 1,000 employees clicked to support Mr. Kalanick’s return in that capacity. In addition, Uber workers took to social media to express their dismay at the departure of Mr. Kalanick, who helped found Uber and made it a transportation behemoth.

“He worked day and night in creating this company to what it is today,” the petition said.

The reaction followed a tumultuous few days at Uber. Late Tuesday, Mr. Kalanick, 40, said he would step down as Uber’s chief executive after a coterie of investors — including Benchmark, one of the company’s biggest shareholders — pushed for him to resign. They acted after months of controversy at Uber over legal and workplace issues, including sexual harassment claims, which have prompted firings, investigations and promises to reform.

Mr. Kalanick’s resignation stunned many in Silicon Valley who viewed his position as secure, because he holds plenty of Uber’s stock and because he built the ride-hailing service into a nearly $70 billion company in just eight years.

His departure plunges Uber into uncertainty. The company does not have an interim chief executive, with management responsibilities being shared among a committee of executives. Uber is recruiting to refresh its highest ranks with other executives as well, and the company’s board is also undergoing several changes.

The employee petition began when Michael York, a product manager, called for people to rally their support around Mr. Kalanick.

“Nobody is perfect, but I fundamentally believe he can evolve into the leader Uber needs today and that he’s critical to its success,” Mr. York wrote in an email to fellow Uber employees, titled “Supporting Travis.” “I want the board to hear from Uber employees that it’s [sic] made the wrong decision in pressuring Travis to leave and that he should be reinstated in an operational role.”

The 1,000 clicks the petition received represent a small fraction of Uber’s more than 15,000 employees.

Mr. York is close to Mr. Kalanick. The former Uber chief persuaded Mr. York to drop out of school at 18 to join Uber in 2012. With Jeff Holden, a product executive at the company, Mr. York helped Mr. Kalanick formulate Uber’s now-infamous list of 14 cultural values a few years ago, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly. That list is being reformulated after an internal investigation into Uber’s culture.

On Wednesday night, Uber employees in San Francisco, where the company is based, also held at least two small, informal gatherings to discuss the state of the company and, in some cases, mourn the loss of its leader, according to three current and former Uber employees.

Uber management has rushed to address employee concerns.

“As you’d expect, the emotions around Travis’s decision are intense. We understand that, and we want all of you to know that he did not make this decision lightly,” the company’s executive leadership team wrote to employees on Wednesday, according to email seen by The New York Times. “Stepping back now was his way of putting Uber first, as he always has. Travis gave more to this company than anyone. He had a deep and meaningful impact on countless numbers of people at Uber and around the world, and for that, we will forever be grateful.”

Uber declined to comment further.

Margaret-Ann Seger, an Uber employee, wrote a long message on Facebook calling Mr. Kalanick an inspiration to all entrepreneurs. She thanked him for inspiring the company to “think bigger, faster, and higher-impact than anyone has ever dared to think before.”

She added that, “We’ve mis-stepped at times — I’ll be the first to admit that Uber is not perfect. But the positive impact you’ve had on this company, and the world, is truly inspirational.”

The post was liked by more than 700 people on Facebook, including Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, and Joe Lonsdale, a well-connected venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.