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Uber has lived through a parade of executive exits before its IPO

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

Few startups have have gone through more public scandal and boardroom intrigue than Uber. On the road to its breathlessly anticipated IPO, Uber (UBER) has seen its C-suite reshuffled all the way up to the top.

On Thursday, Uber priced its IPO at $45 per share. At that price, the ride-hailing company raised $8.1 billion at a valuation of $82.4 billion.

As most discussion centers around what the shares might do in the first few days, it’s worth looking back and reexamining the Uber executive exodus.

Graphic by David Foster and JP Mangalindan for Yahoo Finance

Accusations of a sexist workplace culture

A large portion of Uber’s high-profile exits since 2017 stemmed from problems related to Uber’s foray into self-driving car technology. That division of Uber, called Uber Advanced Technology, lost three top engineers at the end of 2016 who had all joined Uber from the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Center. The head of the division, Raffi Krikorian, left in February 2017.

Around the same time, a former Uber employee, Susan Fowler, wrote a blog post alleging rampant sexism at Uber and leadership problems. That triggered months of scrutiny and an internal investigation.

SVP of Engineering Amit Singhal resigned in February 2017 after the company discovered that he had failed to disclose a sexual harassment allegation from his time at Google; communications head Rachel Whetstone stepped down in April 2017 amid the fallout from the scandal and how Uber handled it publicly.

Legal disputes over self-driving car tech

Later in 2017, Uber’s self-driving car division became the center of a major legal dispute: Google accused Anthony Levandowski, who worked at Google’s self-driving car division Waymo before leaving to launch self-driving car company Otto, of stealing trade secrets from Waymo and bringing them to Uber. Uber had acquired Otto and made Levandowski the head of Uber Advanced Technologies.

The dispute became a massive headache for Uber, which fired Levandowski in June 2017 and didn’t fully escape the mess until February 2018 when it settled with Waymo for $245 million.

In this Aug. 18, 2016, file photo, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, left, and Anthony Levandowski, co-founder of Otto, pose for a photo in the lobby of Uber headquarters, in San Francisco.. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

June 2017 saw a string of additional departures related to Uber’s cultural problems: SVP of business Emil Michael resigned after he was named in a report as part of a group of Uber execs who visited an escort bar in South Korea on a business trip; Uber board member David Bonderman stepped down from the board after leaked audio from a meeting, first reported by Yahoo Finance, showed him making a sexist comment to fellow boardmember Arianna Huffington; and Uber founder Travis Kalanick, the face of the company, stepped down amid investor pressure resulting from both the Waymo fiasco and the reports of sexism inside the company.

In August 2017, Uber brought on former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi as its new CEO. He has been credited with improving the culture at the company in the run-up to its IPO.

But even after Kalanick left and Khosrowshahi came aboard, the parade of exits continued, as you can see in the Yahoo Finance timeline graphic above. Many of the company’s earliest employees left after Kalanick did, including head of external affairs Dave Clark and chief legal officer Salle Yoo.

Today, the senior leadership team at Uber looks very different from the inner circle at the company just two years ago. And the company still hasn’t fully escaped public criticism and scandal: on the very day before its $90 billion public offering, Uber drivers across the country are on strike over pay.

But many analysts say all that noise is unlikely to dim the shine of the Uber IPO.

Daniel Roberts is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @readDanwrite.

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