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Uber CEO Apologizes Over Video Of Dispute With Driver

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Uber CEO Apologizes Over Video Of Dispute With Driver

Technology

Uber CEO Apologizes Over Video Of Dispute With Driver

Uber CEO Apologizes Over Video Of Dispute With Driver

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Uber's founder Travis Kalanick says he needs leadership help. The frank acknowledgement comes after video surfaced of him berating an Uber driver, and follows a blistering blog post by a former engineer who said she was subjected to repeated sexual harassment and the company failed to stop it. The question many are asking now is whether Kalanick can continue to serve as the public face of the company he created.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The ride share company Uber has been under fire, and the newest source of controversy is a video recorded by an Uber driver. It's a dash camera video that shows a testy argument with an aggravated, cursing passenger. The passenger was Travis Kalanick, the company's CEO. NPR's Alina Selyukh reports.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: It starts out as a normal kind of Uber ride - civil, a bit awkward. Uber CEO is in center-back seat flanked by two women. They chat. One woman mentions the rough year Uber is having. CEO Travis Kalanick says, if it were easy, then he's not pushing hard enough. The trip wraps up next.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRAVIS KALANICK: There it is. There it is. So we...

SELYUKH: The women get out, and Kalanick shakes hands with the driver who says he's been with Uber since 2010. He drives for the higher-end UberBLACK service.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FAWZI KAMEL: But you, you're raising the standards, and you're dropping the prices.

KALANICK: We're not dropping the price on Black.

SELYUKH: The driver says he's lost money, even gone bankrupt. He and the CEO debate for a bit, but then Kalanick gets annoyed and winds up cursing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KALANICK: What have I changed about Black? What have I changed?

KAMEL: You changed the whole business.

KALANICK: What? What?

KAMEL: You dropped the prices.

KALANICK: On Black?

KAMEL: Yes.

KALANICK: [Expletive].

KAMEL: We started with $20.

KALANICK: [Expletive].

KAMEL: Started with $20.

KALANICK: You know what?

KAMEL: How much is the mile now, $2.75?

KALANICK: You know what?

KAMEL: What?

KALANICK: Some people don't like to take responsibility for their own [expletive].

KAMEL: (Unintelligible).

KALANICK: They blame everything in their life on somebody else.

KAMEL: But why you sending an email for town car?

KALANICK: Good luck.

SELYUKH: The driver sent this dash cam video to Bloomberg, prompting a public apology from Kalanick. His email to staff is frank. He says he's ashamed for treating the driver disrespectfully, that he needs to change as a leader and, quote, "grow up."

FREADA KAPOR KLEIN: It's embarrassing. It's not CEO-like behavior.

SELYUKH: That's Freada Kapor Klein, a partner at Kapor Capital, one of the earliest investors in Uber. I caught her as she was commuting to work, and she says Uber became a success on a no-holds-barred strategy - breaking into a regulated industry. But it's dangerous when it runs amok, especially internally.

KAPOR: One has to be very thoughtful about managing business aggression and giving it very clear boundaries of how it gets expressed and where its limits are.

SELYUKH: And you think that has not happened at Uber yet.

KAPOR: No.

SELYUKH: In fact, Kalanick has been apologizing a lot lately. He stepped down from President Trump's business council after a massive delete Uber campaign protesting the company's response to the refugee ban. He's launched an internal investigation after a female former engineer publicly detailed a sustained culture of sexism. And there are lots of other ongoing legal and regulatory battles over self-driving cars and driver benefits.

ROSABETH MOSS KANTER: Adult supervision might have been a good idea.

SELYUKH: Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a business professor at Harvard, and she echoes a common argument about Uber. Eventually startup founders need seasoned diplomatic oversight.

KANTER: That's why Google, Larry Page, went to Eric Schmidt, and that's why Mark Zuckerberg got Sheryl Sandberg.

SELYUKH: And Uber investor Kapor hopes that if the company actually makes changes and tackles its bro culture, it might set an example to the whole industry. Alina Selyukh, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF STRFKR SONG, "MIRACLE MILE")

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