Travis Kalanick, the combative and troubled CEO of San Francisco-based ride-service company Uber, resigned Tuesday under pressure from investors.
Mr. Kalanick’s exit came under pressure after hours of drama involving Uber’s investors, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who asked to remain anonymous because the details were confidential.
Earlier on Tuesday, five of Uber’s major investors demanded that the chief executive resign immediately. The investors included one of Uber’s biggest shareholders, the venture capital firm Benchmark, which has one of its partners, Bill Gurley, on Uber’s board. The investors made their demand for Mr. Kalanick to step down in a letter delivered to the chief executive while he was in Chicago, said the people with knowledge of the situation.
In the letter, titled “Moving Uber Forward” and obtained by The New York Times, the investors wrote to Mr. Kalanick that he must immediately leave and that the company needed a change in leadership. Mr. Kalanick, 40, consulted with at least one Uber board member, and after long discussions with some of the investors, he agreed to step down. He will remain on Uber’s board of directors.
The Times reported that in his own statement, Kalanick said: "I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight."
The board's move came less than a week after Kalanick had announced he would take an indefinite leave of absence amid professional and personal crises.
The Uber cofounder's mother was killed last month in a boating accident on Pine Flat Lake, east of Fresno. Kalanick said his leave was intended in part to give him time to grieve.
Meantime, his leadership of the company had come under intensifying fire in the wake of charges that Uber management tolerated sexual harassment of and discrimination against the few women in its ranks. The allegations led the company to hire the law firm of former Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate.
That inquiry led to the firing of 20 employees and the forced departure of one of Kalanick's closest lieutentants, Emil Michael. He was the company's senior vice president for business and was notorious for once suggesting Uber could spy on and discredit journalists critical of the company.
Kalanick's resignation came after a series of costly missteps by the fast-growing company that he helped found eight years ago. Uber on Monday embarked on a 180-day program to change its image by allowing riders to give drivers tips through the Uber app, something the company had resisted under Kalanick.
While building the world's biggest ride-hailing service, Uber developed a reputation for ruthless tactics that have occasionally outraged government regulators, drivers, riders and its employees.
The company's hard-charging style has led to legal trouble. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating Uber's past usage of phony software designed to thwart regulators.
Uber also is fighting allegations that it relies on a key piece of technology stolen from Google spin-off Waymo to build self-driving cars.
This post contains reporting from The Associated Press.