Emil Michael’s exit would be among most senior of a stream of recent executive departures
Emil Michael stirred up a storm of controversy in 2014 after allegedly suggesting that the company should spend millions of dollars to investigate journalists who were critical. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News
Uber Technologies Inc. Chief Business Officer Emil Michael is planning to resign as soon as Monday, a departure that would further worsen an already dire leadership problem at the ride-hailing firm, according to people familiar with matter.
Uber’s board on Sunday is considering the future of Mr. Michael and other executives, including the possibility of Chief Executive Travis Kalanick taking a leave of absence, the people said.
An Uber spokesman declined to comment, and Messrs. Kalanick and Michael didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The possible exit of Mr. Michael, who has been acting as a number 2 to Mr. Kalanick and is also a personal friend of the co-founder, follows the departure of Uber’s head of communications, a senior vice president of engineering, vice president of product and growth and its head of finance, among others. Uber recently fired the head of its self-driving car development, Anthony Levandowski, and is seeking a COO and CFO.
It is unclear whether Mr. Michael’s resignation is related to a report prepared by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and his firm, Covington & Burling LLP, regarding Uber’s workplace culture. The report is expected to have unearthed damaging information about inappropriate behavior at Uber including sexual harassment, retaliation, bullying and other matters, people familiar with the matter said.
Uber’s board of directors is set to meet Sunday to vote on Covington’s recommendations and discuss a possible leave of absence for Mr. Kalanick, who is still reeling from the death of his mother last month in a boating accident that also left his father seriously injured. The Covington report likely makes recommendations for new human-resource processes and trainings.
On Tuesday, Uber is expected to release a summary report of the Covington report to employees and the media, provided the board approves its recommendations.
Mr. Michael helped oversee broad strategy initiatives including mergers and acquisitions and fundraising. He joined Uber in 2013 from Klout Inc., which rates users’ online reputation, and had worked as an adviser to technology companies.
Mr. Michael stirred up a storm of controversy around Uber after allegedly suggesting in November 2014 to a BuzzFeed editor at a party that the company should spend millions of dollars to investigate journalists who were critical. His comments were condemned by Mr. Kalanick at the time who called them “terrible” and “a departure from our values and ideals.”
He also was aware the company’s head of Asian operations, Eric Alexander, had obtained the medical records of a rape victim in an Uber car in India while pursuing a theory that local competitor Ola had pushed the story to damage Uber’s reputation, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Alexander was fired this week after reporter inquiries.