Uber finally confirms Expedia boss Khosrowshahi is new CEO

Mr Dara Khosrowshahi (above) made Expedia the largest online travel agency by bookings. He is facing a long list of challenges as ride-hailing firm Uber's new CEO as the company is losing hundreds of millions a quarter.
Mr Dara Khosrowshahi made Expedia the largest online travel agency by bookings. He is facing a long list of challenges as ride-hailing firm Uber's new CEO as the company is losing hundreds of millions a quarter.PHOTO: REUTERS
Mr Dara Khosrowshahi (above) made Expedia the largest online travel agency by bookings. He is facing a long list of challenges as ride-hailing firm Uber's new CEO as the company is losing hundreds of millions a quarter.
Mr Dara Khosrowshahi (above) made Expedia the largest online travel agency by bookings. He is facing a long list of challenges as ride-hailing firm Uber's new CEO as the company is losing hundreds of millions a quarter.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO • It is official - Mr Dara Khosrowshahi is the chief executive officer of Uber Technologies.

The ride-hailing company made the announcement late on Tuesday, confirming media reports, as well as comments he made to the press.

The selection of Expedia's soon-to-be former CEO concludes a months-long search to replace Uber founder Travis Kalanick.

Uber took Monday and much of Tuesday to finish up the negotiations and paperwork, following a contentious yet ultimately unanimous board vote.

Mr Khosrowshahi was the dark-horse candidate, and his name did not appear in public, while other high-profile candidates such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Meg Whitman and General Electric chairman Jeffrey Immelt were known to be in the running for the job.

Although Mr Khosrowshahi, 48, called his new job "the opportunity of a lifetime" in an interview with Bloomberg, he is facing a long list of challenges.

The company is losing hundreds of millions a quarter. It is staring down two United States Department of Justice investigations, one into the company's Greyball software that obscured drivers from law enforcement officials and then a second, revealed on Tuesday, into bribes paid to foreign officials.

Benchmark, the company's largest shareholder, is locked in a legal fight with Mr Kalanick over the allocation of board seats. To top it off, many of the executive ranks sit empty - there is no chief financial officer, no chief marketing officer and no general counsel.

Still, as far as CEO searches go, the selection of Mr Khosrowshahi was a fairly prompt process, fewer than 12 weeks from Mr Kalanick's June 20 resignation.

For the 14-member, bitterly divided board of directors, which is currently running its day-to-day operations, Mr Khosrowshahi is a compromise choice that the dysfunctional yet highly innovative company needs.

He is a friendly and steady hand, a savvy deal-maker, a committed defender of diversity and vocal critic of US President Donald Trump, according to those who know him.

Under his watch, Expedia has become the largest online travel agency by bookings, making a number of strategic acquisitions to build a travel empire and more than doubling its revenue in four years.

"Dara is a very focused, disciplined adult," said Mr Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst with Atmosphere Research Group.

"He's not a tech bro," he said.

People who have worked with Mr Khosrowshahi said he evolved from being a tough deal-maker at investment bank Allen & Co into a well-rounded executive who still loves the deal but can also make peace with government regulators and compromise where needed - both skills required by Uber.

With its US$69 billion (S$94 billion) valuation, the company has effectively made an enormous promise to investors that it will be a once-in-a-generation technology company.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2017, with the headline 'Uber finally confirms Expedia boss Khosrowshahi is new CEO'. Print Edition | Subscribe