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New Uber chief has traveled long way to take over hot seat

Updated: 2017-09-01 07:42

New Uber chief has traveled long way to take over hot seat

Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's new CEO. [Photo/Agencies]

SAN FRANCISCO-Dara Khosrowshahi is credited with turning Expedia Inc into a global travel services behemoth and winning admiration from employees on the way.

Uber is hoping he will steer the controversy-battered ride-sharing service along a similarly glorious route.

The San Francisco-based startup, officially known as Uber Technologies Inc, confirmed on Tuesday that Khosrowshahi would replace former head Travis Kalanick.

"We are delighted to announce that Uber's board has voted unanimously to appoint Dara Khosrowshahi to be our new CEO (chief executive officer)," Uber executives said in an email to employees.

"We are really fortunate to gain a leader with Dara's experience, talent and vision," they added.

Khosrowshahi is known as an experienced top executive, willing to speak his mind and to advocate for women getting equal pay and leadership opportunities.

His most recent Twitter post criticized United States President Donald Trump for his response to a white supremacist rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville.

"I keep waiting for the moment when our Prez will rise to the expectations of his office and he fails, repeatedly," Khosrowshahi said in the tweet, which included a link to a story about the Trump controversy.

Born in Iran, he immigrated to the US with his family as a child and became a citizen .

Expedia shares have climbed more than five-fold during the 12 years Khosrowshahi has been in charge of the travel services internet firm.

"I don't doubt his skills and his background in finance and hospitality, which is going to be very important," said Tim Bajarin, president of Silicon Valley technology analyst firm Creative Strategies.

"The only thing we don't know is his ability to navigate some of the difficult settings around internal disciplinary issues and code of conduct that he will inherit."

Khosrowshahi will have to address conflicts with regulators and taxi operators, a cutthroat company culture, sexism and board members feuding with investors over Kalanick.

The former CEO was the driving force behind Uber, taking a spur-of-moment idea and turning it into the world's most valuable venture-funded tech startup.

But his brash personality and freewheeling management style, which some argue set a tone inside the company, made him a liability as well as an asset to the global ride-sharing giant, and in June he stepped down as chief executive.

Good CEOs typically ramp up discipline and accountability in employee ranks upon taking charge at companies, so that will likely be among steps taken by Khosrowshahi at the Uber helm, according to Bajarin.

"He is going to have to be highly aggressive in disciplining the company to stay on message and, more importantly, to stick within whatever the codes of conduct are," the analyst said.

Khosrowshahi has consistently scored well at website Glass Door, where executives and companies are anonymously rated by employees past and present, suggesting he might be able to parent workers without alienating them.

And since Uber's board members, including Kalanick, agreed to offer him the job as CEO, he could have backing if he butts heads with those resentful the founder was pressured to step down.

Khosrowshahi's strong background in travel and transportation should be a benefit when it comes to guiding Uber through its next phase of growth, according to Bajarin.

His experience includes jobs managing finance and strategy, having worked in executive positions at IAC/InterActive-Corp and the investment firm of Allen& Co, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Khosrowshahi, 48, was born in Teheran to a prominent family behind a conglomerate with interests in food, trade, pharmaceuticals and chemicals.

His family immigrated to the US prior to the Iranian Revolution in 1978.

"Dara came to America when he was nine years old," Uber said in its message to employees.

He attended college here, earning a university degree in electrical engineering.

Khosrowshahi proposed to his wife, Sydney, during a visit to Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia, and they have four children.

Trip Chowdhry, an analyst at Global Equities Research, considered Khosrowshahi a fine choice to run Uber, but questioned whether one person can make a difference at a troubled company.

"Dara is not a magician," Chowdhry said.


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