Uber's Travis Kalanick may take break from company

The board of directors talks over the CEO's potential leave and goes all in on post-investigation recommendations from former AG Eric Holder.

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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has been under fire for scandals that have plagued the ride-hailing startup.

James Martin/CNET

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick may soon be stepping away temporarily from his duties running the beleaguered ride-hailing startup.

A leave of absence for Kalanick was one of the topics up for discussion during a board meeting Sunday, according to Reuters. The board also discussed sweeping changes to the company's management structure in response to an internal sexual harassment probe, the news agency reported, citing an unidentified source familiar with the situation.

Sunday's meeting could prove to be a pivotal moment for the embattled company, which used a smartphone app to upend the taxi industry and become the world's most valuable startup. Uber has also grappled with scandals and management turmoil in recent months.

On Tuesday, Uber said it fired more than 20 employees as part of an internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations. A second internal inquiry is being led by former US Attorney General Eric Holder. Results from that investigation have been shared with the board, along with recommendations from Holder.

During Sunday's meeting, board members met with Holder and unanimously voted to adopt all of his recommendations, a representative for the board confirmed. These recommendations are expected to be released to the public on Tuesday after a companywide all-hands meeting.

The investigations were prompted by accusations in February by a former employee that women in the company were sexually harassed by other employees and that complaints were being dismissed by human resources. The former employee said Uber suffered from a chaotic companywide culture of sexism and unprofessional business practices that had serious work consequences, including the abandonment of projects and altered objectives.

In addition to the sexual harassment probes, investors have lambasted the company for having a culture "plagued by disrespect;" a leaked video showed Kalanick berating a driver over fares; Google filed a lawsuit against the ride-hailing company claiming it stole self-driving car technology; a New York Times expose uncovered Uber's secretive Greyball tool meant to thwart authorities in 2014; and a long list of top executives have stepped down.

During Sunday's meeting, Uber's board also considered internal policy and management changes, Reuters reported. Board member Arianna Huffington said Wednesday the company would soon experience a "restructuring of the management team" but didn't elaborate.

Part of that shakeup may include the departure of one of Kalanick's closest confidants. Emil Michael, Uber's chief business officer, is expected to announce his resignation Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal. He joined Uber from social analytics company Klout in 2013 and oversees Uber's business strategies, including mergers and acquisitions. Michael also faced scandals at Uber after being overheard saying in 2014 that he wanted to "dig up dirt" on the company's critics in the media.

CNET's Dara Kerr contributed this report.

First published June 11 at 8:50 a.m. PT.
Updated at 9:40 a.m. PT and 12:49 a.m. PT: Added information about Emil Michael's possible resignation and about the release of findings from Eric Holder's investigation. Updated at 11:13 p.m. PT: Added information about the board voting to adopt all of Holder's recommendations.

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