Marissa Mayer said she is “friends” with Travis Kalanick, defending Uber’s ex-chief executive against critics who say he presided over a toxic frat-boy scene at the ride-hailing giant.
Kalanick has been accused of encouraging a “bro culture” at the company, stealing trade secrets, fostering an environment of sexual harassment and permitting the use of illegal software to evade transportation authorities.
Yet to hear it from Mayer — who recently has been rumored to be as a potential candidate to replace Kalanick as Uber’s next CEO — the guy’s not to blame.
“I just don’t think he knew,” Mayer said Tuesday at the annual Stanford Directors’ College, a forum to help boards of directors deal with crises.
“When your company scales that quickly, it’s hard,” she said.
That’s something Mayer — who this month stepped down as Yahoo CEO with a $260 million golden parachute — knows from experience.
After two major data hacks on her watch, Yahoo admitted in a regulatory filing that “certain senior executives did not properly comprehend or investigate” the mess.
During her Stanford talk, Mayer called Kalanick “one of my friends” and said Uber is “ridiculously interesting.”
The digital diva even likened Uber’s situation to her pre-Yahoo years at Google, when Eric Schmidt took over from co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to provide what the temporary CEO Schmidt called “day-to-day adult supervision.”
But at least they got supervision.
For Uber, it took nearly 50 recommendations — generated by a four-month investigation by former US Attorney General Eric Holder — for its board to swing into action.
After several false starts out the door, Kalanick was finally pushed to the curb by five investors. The enduring image from his tenure is a recent video of him dressing down an Uber driver.
Other candidates that Uber is said to be chasing to replace Kalanick are also female, including Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and CVS exec Helena Foulkes.