- Damning video of the Uber founder Travis Kalanick berating a driver surfaced at the worst possible time for the company.
- The clip hit the internet minutes after the team learned that a survey had found that people already thought the CEO was a toxic influence on the company.
- Amid verbal fights with his deputies, Kalanick writhed around on the floor of an executive’s San Francisco townhouse, Mike Isaac writes in “Super Pumped,” a new book released in September about Uber’s first 10 years.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In February 2017, Uber executives huddled in the hallway near a conference room of San Francisco’s four-star Le Meridien hotel.
They were there to come up with a game plan, Mike Isaac writes in “Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber,” released in September – and it needed to be a good one.
Not only had the group just seen the results of a damning survey – it found, Isaac wrote, that “people enjoyed using Uber as a service” but that when its founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, was brought up, “customers recoiled” – but a video had just surfaced that would become a major piece of Kalanick’s fall from grace:
“The four executives huddled around the laptop, with Kalanick kneeling on the floor in front of the chair. They watched as a grainy dashcam video began playing. Shot from inside an Uber, the video shows a driver with three passengers: two women and a man, Travis Kalanick, sandwiched in between them in the back seat.”
The clip of Kalanick berating a driver who blamed the executive for lowering pay spread like wildfire, reaching well beyond Bloomberg and onto local TV newscasts around the country, as well as to Business Insider.
“Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own s—!” Kalanick can be heard shouting in the video.
When Rachel Whetstone, Uber’s head of public relations at the time, suggested that Kalanick stick to Uber’s in-house communications team instead of hiring an outside PR firm, Isaac wrote, Kalanick went berserk:
“‘You two aren’t strategic or creative enough to help us get out of this situation,’ he said. The room was silent as Kalanick’s insult hung in the air. Whetstone and Hazelbaker had had enough. The two of them stood up, gathered their belongings, and walked out of the room.”
Later, around pizza and beer in the San Francisco townhouse of Jill Hazelbaker, now the company’s senior vice president of marketing, communications, and public policy, morale didn’t get much better:
“Meanwhile, Kalanick continued his theatrics, writhing around on Hazelbaker’s carpet. Kalanick kept repeating the same thing over and over: ‘I’m a terrible person. I’m a terrible person. I’m a terrible person.'”
Eventually, the team came up with a press statement and apology from Kalanick that was also posted on the company’s blog.
Four months later, Kalanick would resign.
- More from “Super Pumped”:
- Uber’s ousted founder Travis Kalanick would like you to call him ‘T-bone’
- Uber made nearly $500 million from a ‘safe rides fee’ – and that money went straight to the company’s pockets
- Uber’s lax ID requirements in Brazil led to people playing ‘Uber roulette’ and sticking up drivers – leading to 16 murders