Uber Founder Travis Kalanick Leaves Board, Severing Last Tie

SAN FRANCISCO — Travis Kalanick, the founder and former chief executive of Uber, has stepped down from the company’s board of directors, severing his last tie with the business.

Mr. Kalanick, 43, started Uber in 2009 with Garrett Camp and turned the small start-up into a behemoth that defined the ride-hailing industry. Investors forced Mr. Kalanick to resign as chief executive in 2017, after a series of privacy scandals and complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment at the company.

Mr. Kalanick’s departure from Uber’s board ends one of the tech industry’s defining stories of the last decade. During his ride-hailing company’s meteoric rise, he came to personify the aggressive, risk-taking nature of a new generation of tech start-ups intent on “disrupting” other industries like taxis, hotels and food delivery.

“Uber has been a part of my life for the past 10 years. At the close of the decade, and with the company now public, it seems like the right moment for me to focus on my current business and philanthropic pursuits,” Mr. Kalanick said in a statement on Tuesday. “I’m proud of all that Uber has achieved, and I will continue to cheer for its future from the sidelines.”

The company went public in May in one of the most anticipated Wall Street debuts in years, but it has since struggled. Shares of Uber were $30.48 at the end of trading on Tuesday, about 33 percent below the price of the initial offering.

But Uber has turned Mr. Kalanick, who was Uber’s biggest individual shareholder, into a billionaire. Before the I.P.O., he sold nearly a third of his shares to the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank for about $1.4 billion.

Since the initial offering, he has steadily sold more than $2.5 billion worth of his shares, and on Thursday will complete the sale of his remaining stake, a spokeswoman said. He initiated the sale of his last remaining shares on Friday and announced his resignation in a letter to the board on Monday.

Mr. Kalanick currently runs a venture fund and a start-up that operates “dark kitchens” — cooking facilities that prepare food for delivery.

His resignation from Uber’s board was not a shock, given his sell-off of the shares. “It’s not surprising that he’d want to devote everything to the new project,” said Bradley Tusk, the chief executive of Tusk Holdings and an early investor in Uber. “Combine that with the fact that there’s not much to be excited about with Uber these days and it makes sense.”

In 2009, Mr. Kalanick and Mr. Camp started Uber as a black-car service that riders could hail from their phone. Mr. Kalanick stepped into the role of chief executive in 2010 and oversaw a period of rapid growth at the company. He often flouted local regulations, pushing Uber to expand to new cities as rapidly as possible.

Mr. Kalanick’s stepping-on-toes behavior became the cultural norm at Uber, which came to be known for its willingness to value growth at all costs. Uber quickly expanded into more than 70 countries and became the dominant ride-hailing service in most of them. It also started delivering food and developing autonomous vehicles.

But 2017 was a year of reckoning for Mr. Kalanick and Uber: A former engineer at the company (who is now an editor in the Opinion section of The New York Times) spoke publicly about her experiences of sexual harassment at Uber and said her managers did nothing to curb the behavior. A video of Mr. Kalanick berating an Uber driver who questioned him over falling wages also emerged. And revelations about Uber’s efforts to spy on competitors and thwart regulators surfaced.

Other scandals came to light that year. A woman who was raped during a 2014 Uber ride in India sued Mr. Kalanick and the company after it emerged that executives at the company had obtained her medical records in an effort to discredit her. Waymo, a Google-owned competitor in the race to develop self-driving cars, sued Uber for theft of trade secrets. Uber settled both lawsuits.

The onslaught proved too much for Uber’s major investors, and Mr. Kalanick resigned in June 2017. Mr. Camp, his co-founder, remains on Uber’s board.

Dara Khosrowshahi, a former executive at the travel company Expedia, was appointed as Mr. Kalanick’s replacement and tasked with cleaning up Uber’s culture.

“Very few entrepreneurs have built something as profound as Travis Kalanick did with Uber,” Mr. Khosrowshahi said in a statement on Tuesday. “I’m enormously grateful for Travis’s vision and tenacity while building Uber, and for his expertise as a board member. Everyone at Uber wishes him all the best.”

Mr. Khosrowshahi led Uber to its initial public offering in May. Uber’s shares immediately fell below the offering price and have yet to recover.

One of the biggest concerns among Uber’s investors is whether the company will turn a profit anytime soon. Despite a belt-tightening campaign, Uber posted a $1.2 billion loss and said revenue increased 30 percent annually to $3.8 billion in its most recent quarter. The company laid off more than 1,000 workers over the course of the year and cut other costs.

Investors have also pressured Mr. Khosrowshahi to pull back on the company’s expensive autonomous vehicle unit and its food delivery service, which is struggling in India and elsewhere.

Crisis communications experts said Mr. Kalanick’s departure might help the company’s efforts to rebuild its image.

“A major priority for Uber over the last couple of years was signaling a shift away from the earlier era,” said Jeremy Robinson-Leon, the president of Group Gordon, a corporate and crisis communications firm. “It’s hard to do that with the ghost of Kalanick looming in the shadows.”

While Uber has had financial troubles, Mr. Khosrowshahi has made progress addressing sexual harassment at the company. He released harassment and assault victims from mandatory arbitration agreements, allowing them to make their cases against Uber public if they choose to do so.

This month, he published a report that detailed the number of sexual assaults that occurred during Uber rides in 2017 and 2018, and settled a federal investigation into Uber’s workplace culture for $4.4 million.

But Uber continues to face regulatory woes. In November, the company lost its license to operate in London, one of its largest markets, because of persistent safety issues. Uber has appealed the decision, a move that will allow it to continue to operate there for the time being.

Katie Benner contributed reporting.