His departure is tinged by allegations made about him to those investigating the ride-hailing company’s loose culture.
Ed Baker, Uber’s VP of product and growth, has informed his team that he’s leaving the car-hailing company after more than three years.
In an email, the former Facebook exec wrote: “I have always wanted to apply my experience in technology and growth to the public sector. And now seems like the right moment to get involved.”
Before Uber — which he joined in 2013 along with former CFO Brent Callinicos and Uber SVP Emil Michael — Baker headed international growth at the social media giant for two years after the company acquired his dating app called Friend.ly in 2011.
With Baker’s leaving, marketplace head Daniel Graf will take over as acting head of product and growth. In addition, Uber has hired well-regarded Facebook product exec Peter Deng as head of its rider product. Also key in Graf’s organization is Aaron Schildkrout, who will be head of driver products.
But, because it is Uber, the Baker departure is complex: His resignation also comes at a time when Uber employees have complained about questionable behavior on his part.
For example, one person anonymously tipped off board member Arianna Huffington — who is one of the people conducting a wider-ranging investigation into sexism and sexual harassment at the company — via an email that Baker had engaged in a sexual encounter with another employee.
Specifically, said sources, Baker was seen “making out” at an internal Uber event held in Miami three years ago, which was seen by some employees. There was no suggestion of any sexual harassment on his part and the encounter was apparently consensual.
Recode had received the same email as Huffington and had contacted Uber about it this week, as apparently had other reporters.
While companies have different rules about relationships between employees — some prohibit them, while others require disclosure — Uber is in a dicey spot right now and any revelations of an out-of-control company culture, especially by top execs, are problematic at this time.
This is the second major executive to step down from Uber in the last week, in moves indirectly related to the investigation. On Monday, Kalanick asked SVP of engineering Amit Singhal to resign after learning that he did not disclose that he was the subject of a sexual harassment investigation at his previous employer, Google.
Baker’s resignation bookends a disastrous few weeks for the ride-hail company now valued at close to $70 billion. It started with a social media campaign to #deleteUber over claims that the company attempted to profit off the backs of protesting taxi drivers — largely unfair but which caused more than 200,000 users to abandon the app.
After those claims were made public, Kalanick hired former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder and his law firm Covington and Burling to conduct an investigation into Fowler’s claims. He has also vowed to change the way the company is run and also publish a diversity report for the first time in Uber’s history. Kalanick had vehemently opposed reporting diversity numbers in the past.
Then, on Wednesday, a video of Kalanick in an unfortunate argument with a driver for asking about the status of the company’s premium car service, UberBlack, surfaced. Kalanick quickly apologized for his words and admitted, for the first time, that he needs to “grow up.”
All this has put a focus on a culture that prioritized growth and “crushing the competition,” as one source put it, often to the detriment of employee satisfaction and well-being. It is also one that has favored what Huffington has called “brilliant jerks,” who can act badly without consequences.
It has not helped that Kalanick has conceived that the HR department’s role was to focus primarily on scaling the company and recruiting talent — not to focus on mitigating workplace issues.
And Uber has had a rocky history around these issues too. In 2014, Michael — who is still at the company — suggested digging up dirt on journalists who weren’t friendly to the company. Then, there was the promotion in France that paired riders with “hot chicks.” Also, Kalanick once made an idiotic pun about the Uber name, calling it “Boob-er” to an Esquire reporter since it helped him get dates.
Nonetheless, the ride-hail company — which is rumored to be looking at going public in 2018 — has managed its way out of all these previous public relations messes.
But now that seems to have added up to what could be a more lasting tarnish on the company, as it appears as if many consumers and others might not give Uber another chance. And, for the first time, that Kalanick and his executive team will actually be held accountable for their more questionable actions.