Kalanick didn’t say when he planned to return, according to Bloomberg.
The news, reportedly shared in a companywide email, follows reports that Uber’s board of directors discussed a leadership shakeup at a June 11 meeting ― including a leave of absence for Kalanick ― amid a period of intense turbulence for the ride-hailing company and a time of personal tragedy for the embattled executive.
Kalanick founded Uber in 2009 as a scrappy startup that eventually grew into a taxi-killing behemoth valued at nearly $70 billion. But Kalanick, 40, has also faced torrents of criticism over Uber’s toxic workplace environment and his personal behavior.
In February, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler wrote a tell-all blog post about the company’s sexist culture that went viral. Fowler described being solicited for sex by a male manager, discriminated against by management and stonewalled by human resources for reporting the conduct of male employees there.
In response to the allegations, Kalanick tapped former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to lead an investigation into Uber’s practices with help from board member and former HuffPost Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington. Uber also hired a separate law firm, Perkins Coie, to specifically investigate sexual harassment and other workplace complaints by Fowler and other individuals.
After Fowler’s allegations became public, two of Uber’s earliest investors, Mitch and Freada Kapor, spoke out and urged the company to switch gears.
“Uber’s outsize success in terms of growth of market share, revenues and valuation are impressive, but can never excuse a culture plagued by disrespect, exclusionary cliques, lack of diversity, and tolerance for bullying and harassment of every form,” the two wrote in February.
“Uber has had countless opportunities to do the right thing ,” they added. “We feel we have hit a dead end.”
In another sign of faltering confidence within the company, Uber President Jeff Jones abruptly quit after just six months on the job in March, saying his “beliefs and approach to leadership” were apparently incompatible with Uber’s.
In June, Perkins Coie’s investigation prompted Uber to fire 20 employees. The law firm looked at 215 claims about discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and unprofessional behavior. One hundred claims resulted in no action; 31 required employees to receive additional training; seven prompted written warnings; and 57 remained under review.
“Culture changes have been well underway at the company for months now,” an Uber spokeswoman told HuffPost after the firings. “Moving forward, we’re more committed than ever to turning the page. We want to change.”
Meanwhile, Holder’s broader review was submitted to Uber’s board of directors, who reportedly voted unanimously to accept all of his recommendations on June 11.
Emil Michael, Uber’s senior vice president for business and a deputy to Kalanick, left the company the following day, after Holder recommended his departure, The New York Times reported.
The criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.
Travis Kalanick, Uber founder
But one of the biggest threats to the company’s brand has been Kalanick himself.
In June, Recode published an email Kalanick wrote to employees in 2013 ahead of a company-wide celebration. The email contained profanities, laid out rules for having sex with fellow employees and warned of a “$200 puke charge.”
Earlier this year, Kalanick was widely criticized after he was caught on tape berating an Uber driver. The video shows Kalanick discussing the company’s fare structure with Uber “black car” driver Fawzi Kamel at the end of a ride. Kamel, who purchased a nicer car to drive for the upscale “black” service, tells Kalanick he “lost $97,000 because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you.”
In response, Kalanick fires back, “You know what? Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else.”
“Good luck,” Kalanick adds, sarcastically, before slamming the door.
Kalanick acknowledged that he needed help in an apology he wrote to employees after the video surfaced.
“It’s clear this video is a reflection of me ― and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up,” he wrote. “This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.”
Uber has also struggled with issues beyond its corporate culture.
In January, Uber faced backlash for appearing to break a New York City taxi picket line formed in solidarity with protests over President Donald Trump’s travel ban. The hashtag #DeleteUber went viral and more than 200,000 people deleted the Uber app from their phones. The protest was only quelled once Kalanick announced he’d resign from Trump’s economic advisory council.
The company is also fighting a lawsuit to continue its self-driving car program. Meanwhile, Uber competitor Lyft has continued to pick up steam.
Kalanick has limited his public comments since his mother was killed and his father injured in a boating accident in May.
This is a developing story and will be updated.