SAN FRANCISCO: Expedia chief Dara Khosrowshahi is credited with turning the company into a global travel services behemoth, winning admiration from employees on the journey.
Uber is hoping he will now slip into the driver’s seat at the controversy-battered ride-sharing service and steer it along a similarly glorious route.
The San Francisco-based startup has yet to confirm reports that Khosrowshahi was picked to replace ousted chief Travis Kalanick.
However, Expedia board chairman Barry Diller appeared to confirm the choice in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday.
“As you probably know by now, Dara Khosrowshahi has been asked to lead Uber,” read a copy of a memo from Expedia board chairman Barry Diller to Expedia employees included in an SEC filing.
“Nothing has been yet finalized, but having extensively discussed this with Dara I believe it is his intention to accept.”
Uber and Expedia did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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 criticizes US 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, Khosrowshahi immigrated to the United States with his family as a child and became a citizen here.
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.”
Need for discipline
Whoever takes charge at Uber will have to address conflicts with regulators and taxi operators, a cut-throat company culture, sexism and board members feuding with investors over Kalanick.
Kalanick 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 ridesharing giant, and in June he stepped down as chief executive.
Good chief executives typically ramp up discipline and accountability in employee ranks upon taking charge at companies, so that would 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 inmportantly, 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 able to parent workers without alienating them.
And, since Uber’s board members including Kalanick need a consensus to offer him the job as chief, he could have backing if he butts heads with those resentful the founder was pressured to step down.
Is it enough?
Khosroshahi’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.
Khosrowshahi’s experience includes jobs managing finance and strategy, having worked in executive positions at IAC/InterActiveCorp and the investment firm of Allen & Company, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Khosrowshahi, 48, was born in Tehran to a prominent family behind a conglomerate with interests in food, trade, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and more.
His family immigrated to the United States prior to the Iranian Revolution in 1978.
He attended college here, earning a university degree in electrical engineering.
Expedia is based in the city of Bellevue, near Seattle.
“If Dara does leave us, it will be to my great regret but also my blessing — he’s devoted 12 great years to building this company and if this is what he wants for his next adventure, it will be with my best wishes,” Diller said in a letter included with a filing notifying the Securities and Exchange Commission that Khosrowshahi had been offered the job as chief of Uber.
Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry 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.