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How Uber's board sold Dara Khosrowshahi on the CEO job

JP Mangalindan
·Chief Tech Correspondent

The video above has exclusively obtained audio of Uber’s all-hands meeting on Wednesday.

Before Dara Khosrowshahi accepted the Uber CEO role — a role he’s called “the opportunity of a lifetime” — the 48-year-old Iranian American tech executive had numerous discussions with Uber’s board, according to leaked audio exclusively obtained by Yahoo Finance of Uber’s all-hands meeting on Wednesday.

“The journey for me was meeting every single board member,” Khosrowshahi explained at the company meeting. “Every single board member had played their part in getting me here. It started with Travis [Kalanick], because things start with Travis.”

Funnily enough, Uber’s former CEO insisted on chatting via FaceTime audio, not via phone.

“Travis has a weird obsession with FaceTime Audio,” Khosrowshahi said with a laugh, adding that perhaps it had something to do with the audio quality being higher. “He just spun this web or dream of transforming cities, the transportation grid and delivery and robots taking food from the street corner to the home. Just this incredible vision.”

Arianna Huffington, another board member, hosted Khosrowshahi at her New York City apartment during their talks. Her pitch? He could run Uber full-throttle but still get some rest — a philosophy Huffington herself strictly adheres to.

New Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshai recalled at Uber’s all-hands on Wednesday how Uber’s board members pitched him on the CEO role. Source: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File
New Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshai recalled at Uber’s all-hands on Wednesday how Uber’s board members pitched him on the CEO role. Source: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File

“It was so charming,” Khosrowshahi recalled. “She looks at me and says, ‘Dara, you can change the world and get 8 hours of sleep every night.’ I was like, ‘Absolutely! Sign me up! I’ll do it.’”

Not every board member was quite as encouraging, however. Benchmark General Partner Matt Cohler, for instance, played “bad cop,” according to Khosrowshahi.

“Are you going to guarantee me that you’re not going to quit within six months?” Cohler demanded, according to Khosrowshahi. “That pissed me off,” Khosrowshahi added in a dramatic yet lighthearted retelling of their conversation.

Obviously, Khosrowshahi won the board over in the end, beating other CEO candidates such as GE chairman Jeff Immelt and Hewlett Packard Enterprises CEO Meg Whitman. According to a company-wide note sent from Uber’s board on Tuesday evening, the board voted unanimously to appoint Khosrowshahi as Kalanick’s successor.

“He believed in the mission,” Kalanick explained of Khosrowshahi at Wednesday’s all-hands. “He believed in the great people we have gathered for these game-changing efforts that we call Uber. That’s why we kept getting up, and that’s how we get through the hard part of the journey. It’s how we get to the next one.”

Prior to Uber, Khosrowshahi served as CEO of Expedia (EXPE) since 2005 where he helped expand the company to more than 60 countries and led acquisitions such as the $1.3 billion merger with rival travel business Orbitz in 2015, as well as the $3.9 billion purchase of HomeAway that same year. Prior to Expedia, the Brown University graduate served as chief financial officer of IAC (IAC), which also owns popular dating sites and apps, including Match.com, Tinder and Plenty of Fish.

With Uber, Khosrowshahi inherits an embattled company rocked by months of scandal involving alleged sexual harassment in the workplace and questionable workplace practices. The company is also in the midst of a contentious legal battle with self-driving company Waymo, spun out by Google (GOOG, GOOGL) in late 2016, over allegations of misappropriated trade secrets.

Khosrowshahi’s official first day with Uber is Tuesday, September 5.

JP Mangalindan is a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Email story tips and musings to jpm@oath.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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