On Tuesday, mounting outside pressure and an unequivocal demand from a group of powerful investors compelled Uber founder Travis Kalanick to finally resign as the ride-hailing company’s CEO.
To some in Silicon Valley, Kalanick is still celebrated as a visionary—a swashbuckling pioneer who helped change transportation forever. To many others, however, he personifies everything wrong with tech culture. Uber's toxic and sexist environment grew under his watch—an inexcusable offense to his critics, no matter how valuable his company had become.
Despite these divergent perspectives, one thing about Travis Kalanick remains inarguable: People love to describe him as “embattled.” There have been plenty of folks throughout history who were far more embattled than he (the Biblical Abraham, Napoleon, victims of sexual harassment, to name a few). But still, if you look at the past week, you will see that it was quite an embattled one for him.
On June 13, Kalanick announced he would be taking a break from the company. Would this make him any less embattled? Fat chance. “Uber's embattled CEO, Travis Kalanick, is taking an indefinite leave of absence,” read Vox’s headline.
The Guardian, meanwhile, reported that “embattled Uber CEO Travis Kalanick … will take an indefinite leave of absence as the embattled company released a damning report on its workplace culture.” It’s never a good sign when your overwhelming embattled-ness becomes so contagious that it infects an entire company, but apparently that’s exactly what Kalanick’s embattled tenure wrought.
The leave of absence became a full-fledged ouster, and, according to the BBC, “Uber's embattled chief executive Travis Kalanick ... resigned from the firm.”
The Los Angeles Times recounted the story of his ousting too, and you better believe him being embattled was mentioned. “The investor group went directly to the embattled CEO,” read the report, which was headlined “Embattled Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigns; board says he's putting company first.”
The Silicon Valley insiders at TechCrunch didn’t mince words, specifically, the word embattled: “Uber’s embattled CEO Travis Kalanick is resigning from the ride-sharing company he helped found in 2009," is how they put it.
The AP called Kalanick “the combative and embattled [italics ours] CEO of ride-hailing giant Uber,” which was an invigorating change of pace, while Business Insider charted the “rise and fall” of “Uber’s embattled billionaire founder.” A roller coaster!
Kalanick may have resigned as embattled CEO, but he will be staying with the company in a different capacity: embattled board member.