How Travis Kalanick’s Iron Grip Weakened Uber

Several months ago, at an Uber company staff meeting, an employee asked CEO Travis Kalanick about a regulatory matter in Southeast Asia. When Mr. Kalanick said he didn’t know about the issue, Uber’s top operations executive for Asia, Andrew MacDonald, spoke up to tell Mr. Kalanick he’d fill him in about it later. Mr. Kalanick shot back that he should have been told about it already. “I need to know everything that’s happening” at the company, Mr. Kalanick said, according to two people who saw the exchange.

Then in a January meeting, Mr. Kalanick learned Uber was having problems sending promotional push notifications to iPhone owners. After saying it was unacceptable that he didn’t know about it beforehand, Mr. Kalanick later told a group: “I need to be involved in everything important and interesting at the company.”

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Mr. Kalanick may also be able to calm his employee base by setting a timeline for going public, which he has fiercely resisted, even to the point of clashing with directors on his board. Among Mr. Kalanick’s executive staff, the assumption is that Uber will go public by next year.

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