Expedia's Dara Khosrowshahi Picked As Uber's New CEO

Aug 28, 2017
Originally published on August 28, 2017 7:47 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

But now we're going to turn our attention to Silicon Valley and to one of the highest-profile jobs in the tech world, perhaps one of the toughest. Uber has announced the name of the person it wants to become its new CEO. He's the man who is currently the head of expedia.com. Our colleague Ailsa Chang got the story from NPR's Aarti Shahani.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: So who is Uber's new CEO, and how did the company decide on him?

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: Well, his name is Dara Khosrowshahi, and it's been a very volatile process. Basically, Uber's former chief, Travis Kalanick, was pushed out in June. He's still on the board, and he's in an ugly standoff with one of the company's lead investors, Benchmark Capital. Benchmark actually sued Kalanick for fraud and breach of contract. It's a total Silicon Valley psychodrama - right? - founder versus investor. And in this context, Khosrowshahi becomes the compromise choice. Some other names much more high-profile were floating around, like Meg Whitman, chief of Hewlett-Packard enterprise, and Jeff Immelt from General Electric. But the board met on Sunday, and sources close to the company told me they decided on him.

CHANG: So what kind of experience does Khosrowshahi have that makes him maybe particularly well suited to this new job?

SHAHANI: Well, you know, he's got a lot of relevant experience, more than a decade at Expedia, where he had to battle Priceline and a bunch of other travel sites in a very fragmented market. As a CEO there, he'd worked on bringing algorithms into that business to do dynamic pricing, moving price into real time according to supply and demand. You know, that kind of technology is core to Uber too. And of course, Expedia and Uber are both travel companies. But there is a big but here. Expedia helps people to book flights. It's not in charge of making sure that the planes run on-time. Uber is responsible for drivers showing up.

CHANG: Right.

SHAHANI: Now, on a personal front, I would note Khosrowshahi has a fascinating story. He came to the U.S. as a refugee from Iran at age 9, and for six years his father was detained by the government of Iran. So he's lived through some tough situations.

CHANG: Well, he's heading into a pretty, pretty tough job. What is on his plate in the near future?

SHAHANI: There is so much on his plate. You know, Uber's corporate culture at headquarters needs to be turned around. The company got slammed for sexual harassment. A bunch of leaders left. So he needs to hire a new chief financial officer, a new chief operating officer, just to name a couple of positions. He needs to build up the driver workforce. You know, it's interesting, in the last few months, Uber has been doing a lot of public apologizing to drivers, basically saying, you know, we're sorry we've ignored your concerns, like being able to get tips.

Lots of drivers have left the platform. And there's no business without them, so he's got to rebuild that goodwill. He also has to deal with lawsuits, like the one Google has filed claiming Uber stole self-driving car technology. And he needs to deal with tough strategic choices, like does Uber keep going into new cities and expanding, or do they focus on where they might be able to turn a profit and beat back competitors like Lyft?

CHANG: Wow. So a lot heading his way. I mean, given all the bad publicity, all the bad media that Uber's gotten in the last several months, is this - is this a good job, or is this actually kind of a terrible job to be walking into?

SHAHANI: (Laughter). Well, yeah, I mean, on the upside it is important to keep in mind that despite all of the controversy, you know, Uber continues to be the lead ride-hailing company. And the ridership is continuing to grow. People really like the service. People want the service. And so when you're coming in, that's not a terrible place to be.

CHANG: All right. That's NPR's Aarti Shahani. Thanks very much.

SHAHANI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.