Former Google and Softbank executive Nikesh Arora is in the race for becoming the new Uber CEO, according to recent reports.
The company is pitching top executives such as Susan Wojcicki, who leads YouTube; Adam Bain, Twitter’s former CEO; David Cush, a former Chief Executive at Virgin America; Marissa Mayer, ex-CEO Yahoo, and Thomas Staggs, ex-COO Disney, according to three other people familiar with the search. However, it was unclear what level of interest, if any, have these executives evinced in the position. Earlier, as per reports, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg was also being considered by Uber board member Arianna Huffington.
It was also reported that the company has received a flood of interested applicants after CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from his post last month under pressure from investors, after a volatile few months rocked with scandals.
The incoming CEO will have to fix Uber’s cultural problems which were exposed after former employee Susan Fowler spoke publicly about sexual harassment at the workplace. The successor will also have to fight a risky lawsuit filed by Waymo, the self-driving car company spun out of Google, over claims of stolen trade secrets. Amidst this, the yet-to-be-appointed CEO will have to face increasing competition from rivals like Lyft.
Today, there are reports of Uber scaling back in Russia by spinning off its operations in the country to form a new company majorly-owned by local rival Yandex. To top it all, the position comes with the added responsibility of preparing the company for an initial public offering.
It is also obvious that, although fraught with challenges, the post offers a chance to make a high impact and turnaround a company that has reached tremendous scale. Uber is posting increasing revenues (though still unprofitable), has hired more than 15,000 employees and hundreds of thousands of contract drivers worldwide. With a valuation of $70 Bn, it is one of the highest-valued private companies in the world.
As per the report, Travis Kalanick, who remains a significant Uber shareholder, has been active in the search for his replacement. However, potential candidates have been assured that they would have autonomy as the CEO.
On the other hand, Nikesh Arora was on the fast track to become the next CEO of Japan’s SoftBank, before stepping down in June 2016. It was May 2015 when Masayoshi Son first appointed Nikesh Arora as the President of Softbank Global, with hints of making him the potential successor of the company. However, he stepped down as president after Masayoshi Son announced his commitment to remain the CEO for another five to ten years.
Nikesh was criticised by a few SoftBank investors for investments in Indian startups such as Housing and Snapdeal, which eroded in value over years. Within a few months of his appointment, fellow SoftBank stakeholders raised concerns on his massive $135 Mn remuneration for 2014 and his $483 Mn expenditure to buy SoftBank shares in his personal capacity. The Japanese investment firm has also reportedly refuted allegations of kickbacks made against Nikesh Arora and Alok Sama in May this year.
Interestingly, Softbank is one of the earliest backers of Ola, Uber’s rival in India. Ola is one of the best bets for SoftBank in India till date. If the reports of Nikesh throwing his hat in the race are true, then he has yet another chance to fulfill his ambitions of leading a high-valued tech entity, Uber, which has changed the way mobility is thought of in modern times.
(The development was reported by The New York Times.)