Ex-Uber exec blames board for ouster

Eric Newcomer and Brad Stone
Bloomberg News

Uber Technologies Inc.’s newly ousted senior vice president for business, Emil Michael, has been dogged by public scandals, ever since his off-the-cuff remarks at a dinner party in 2014 about investigating a critical journalist.

He was at the center of two more controversies made public this year that were included in an investigation into Uber’s culture.

The former girlfriend of his boss, Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, alleged that he tried to prevent her from speaking out about a work trip to a Korean escort-karaoke bar.

He was also one of the executives recently alleged to hold conspiracy theories that the rape of an Uber passenger in India was linked to a local competitor.

At the same time, Michael, an Egyptian immigrant, helped Uber raise more than $10 billion, negotiate a truce with Uber’s Chinese rival, and strike deals with top automakers like Daimler AG.

Michael believes that a weak board of directors, a lax internal legal team, coupled with his tight friendship with co-founder Kalanick, ultimately led to his downfall, not the scandals, two people close to Michael said.

He places the blame on the directors, particularly investor Bill Gurley, for his removal, accusing them of not having the backbone to stand by him amid what he sees as largely mischaracterized and inconsequential controversies, the people said.

Gurley didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Michael, Kalanick’s closest confidant, was forced out of the beleaguered ride-hailing company by the board, after an investigation into workplace harassment and culture was presented to directors on Sunday.

The probe was led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, whose report suggested parting ways with Michael and adding more independent board members, people familiar with the matter said.

Uber plans to appoint Wan Ling Martello, an executive vice president at Nestle SA, to the board, Bloomberg reported.

The company, valued at $69 billion, plans to begin implementing the report’s recommended changes early this week.

“An Uber without Emil is less valuable than an Uber with Emil,” said Hadi Partovi, an early investor in Uber and close friend of Michael’s. Partovi, who purchased shares of Uber in 2014, said Michael is a scapegoat.

Michael will be replaced by Vice President of Strategic initiatives David Richter,, according to an email obtained by Bloomberg.