Uber has a new chief, with the company naming Dara Khosrowshahi to its vacant CEO slot on Sunday. Khosrowshahi has been CEO of Expedia for the last 12 years, but he now takes on a new challenge: trying to push the very embattled $69 billion ride-sharing giant in the right direction.
The search for a new Uber leader has been fraught with in-fighting from the company's board, not to mention some media leaks and a lawsuit. Moreover, the appointment of Khosrowshahi was a bit of a shock; plenty were expecting some of the more famous candidates rumored for the role, such as Jeff Immelt, General Electric's former CEO, and HP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman, to prevail. Uber's board spent over two days trying to make a hiring decision, and it was ultimately Immelt taking himself out of the running that helped Khosrowshahi fill the role once held by cofounder Travis Kalanick.
Khosrowshahi graduated from Brown University in 1991 with a B.S. in bioelectrical engineering. He went on to become a vice president at Allen & Company, and then went on to IAC, the conglomerate that owns brands such as Vimeo, HomeAdvisor, and Dotdash. After Expedia was spun out of IAC's travel group in 2005, Khosrowshahi helmed the newly independent company, bringing it from $15 billion in bookings to $72 billion in 2016. That year, the Wall Street Journal calculated he was the highest-paid CEO in the S&P 500. He sits on a few boards, including that of the New York Times.
While Uber is a very different business from Expedia, they do have transportation in common. In fact, they might have more in common than you would think. Expedia has grown by working closely with car rental and other transportation companies to get travelers from point A to point B.
To say it's a challenging situation for the 48 year-old Khosrowshahi to walk into is a bit of an understatement. In the first half of the year alone, the company lost $1.35 billion. He'll have to deal with Benchmark Capital, one of Uber's chief investors, which is suing Kalanick for breach of fiduciary duty, among other alleged violations. Moreover, the driver workforce needs to be built up; Uber has recently had a bit of an apology tour towards its drivers, who have often felt ignored by the company.
Khosrowshahi is originally from Iran, and supported a lawsuit against Donald Trump's possibly illegal travel ban in late January. That's a bit of an irony, considering how Uber got a lot of flack earlier this year by ignoring a strike by drivers meant to show solidarity at JFK Airport. That's just one of many problems that have plagued Uber lately: it's been sued for sexual harassment; its corporate culture has been called toxic; many of its leaders have left (the COO and CFO roles are both open); and it is currently in the midst of a lawsuit from Google with respect to its self-driving car technology.
Will Khosrowshahi be successful? Only time will tell, but either way one thing is certain: his success (or lack thereof) will have a direct impact on the future of the ride-sharing industry.