Jun 2, 2017

Uber's Tumultuous Year Continues As Finance Chief Departs

A day after Uber fired the former head of its autonomous vehicle R&D effort the rideshare company said finance chief Gautum Gupta was leaving the company to be COO at a Bay Area startup. The company said the timing of Gupta's departure was unrelated to Uber's $708 million loss in the year's first quarter.


The San Francisco-based firm told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that first-quarter revenue rose 18% to $3.4 billion and that its quarterly loss narrowed to $708 million from $991 million in the previous three-month period. A company spokesperson confirmed the figures for Forbes.

Despite the loss, Uber said it's pleased with the continued revenue growth and by a 9 percent rise in gross bookings as global operations expand. It even described business in developed international markets as "contribution positive" for the quarter.

"These results demonstrate that our business remains healthy and resilient as we focus on improving our culture, management and relationship with drivers," a company spokesperson said. "The narrowing of our losses in the first quarter puts us on a good trajectory towards profitability."

Gupta, who was vice president of finance, leaves Uber after four years of dramatic growth and expansion. His departure was also reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

"Gautam is a world-class financial talent," Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick, said in an emailed statement. "Over the last four years he has been indispensible in helping build Uber from an idea into the business it is today. We couldn't have done it without him, and I will miss his energy, focus and infectious enthusiasm."

Regardless of why he's leaving, it coincides with a tumultuous period for Uber marked by a high-stakes legal fight with Alphabet Inc. over Google self-driving vehicle trade secrets, the resignation of President Jeff Jones and a criminal investigation by the U.S. government into the company's use of a software tool that helped its drivers avoid detection in parts of the country where the service wasn't allowed to operated.

The company is also searching for a COO to strengthen its executive team, which has been under fire for months after claims of a work environment and corporate culture marked by hostility to women. Now it needs a CFO (a title Gupta didn't hold) as the company that's been private since its founding inches toward an initial public offering.

Kalanick has pledged to put the company on a new path, but changing a corporate cultures won't happen quickly.

The search for Gupta's replacement is under way, with a focus on finding someone with experience as a chief financial officer for a public company – "or, even better, experience taking a company public, Uber said.

It's critical that the position be filled quickly, but it's just one of many pressing issues facing the company that's revolutionized the concept of on-demand mobility.


by Alan Ohnsman