Uber CEO says he needs to “grow up” after fiery row with driver
Uber’s embattled CEO has issued a “profound apology” and vowed to “grow up” after video surfaced of him swearing at one of the company’s drivers, in the latest controversy to hit the ride-hailing giant in recent months.
Travis Kalanick’s apology was emailed to Uber employees and posted on the company’s website late Tuesday after dashcam footage emerged of the CEO’s fiery exchange with driver Fawzi Kamel earlier last month.
The video, published by Bloomberg News, showed Kalanick and Kamel arguing after the latter complained that changes to Uber’s business model had resulted in diminishing returns to drivers.
“You’re raising the standards, and you’re dropping the prices,” said Kamel, a driver for the luxury Uber Black service who’d just given Kalanick a ride.
“I lost $97,000 because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you.”
Kalanick said that it was “bullshit” that the returns to Uber Black drivers had dropped, before telling the driver: “You know what? Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else.”
Kalanick published his mea culpa after the argument went public Tuesday.
“To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement. My job as your leader is to lead … and that starts with behaving in a way that makes us all proud,” he wrote.
“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. This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.”
Uber has long faced criticism for its business model, which classifies drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, allowing the company to avoid paying them minimum wage or benefits. But the San Francisco-based giant, valued at $62.5 billion, has weathered a barrage of negative headlines recently.
More than 200,000 users deleted the app after the company upped surge pricing around New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport at a time when taxi drivers were suspending pickups at the airport in protest at an executive order banning migration from seven Muslim-majority countries. The move, combined with Kalanick’s membership in U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic advisory council, fueled perceptions that the company endorsed Trump’s immigration policy; Kalanick later clarified that he opposed the executive order, and then stood down from Trump’s advisory body.
Last month, Uber launched an investigation into claims by a former employee of a culture of sexual harassment at the company; this week a top engineering executive, Amit Singhal, resigned after it emerged he had failed to disclose that he had left a previous job over harassment allegations.
In January, the company paid $20 million to settle allegations that it misled drivers about how much they would earn working for the company.