‘Ashamed’ Uber CEO apologizes after video shows him arguing with and cursing at driver

As Uber’s world turns, it’s one PR crisis after another — and the latest one involves its CEO.

Travis Kalanick apologized Tuesday night in an email to employees after a video showing him arguing with and yelling at an Uber driver was made public.

“It’s clear this video is a reflection of me — and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up,” 40-year-old Kalanick said in the email, which the San Francisco startup published in the newsroom section of its website.

In the video taken by a camera on the dashboard of an Uber Black, Kalanick argues with driver Fawzi Kamel over falling fares. The driver turned over the footage to Bloomberg.

The video shows that when Kamel complained that Uber has lowered fares, making it more difficult for drivers, Kalanick responds: “We started high-end. We didn’t go low-end because we wanted to. We went low-end because we had to because we’d be out of business.”

When Kamel pushes back, Kalanick says “bulls—.”

The CEO then says before getting out of the car: “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own s—. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!”

Kalanick later said in the email to employees that “I want to profoundly apologize to Fawzi, as well as the driver and rider community, and to the Uber team.” He also said, “this is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.”

Whoever steps up to provide that leadership help might want to bring a crisis-management background. Uber has had an eventful past few months.

The company has pleaded with users who want to delete its app from their phones, spurred by the #DeleteUber movement. That started after Uber was seen as undermining a taxi-driver action in New York in protest of Donald Trump’s immigration ban. Bloomberg reports that 20,000 users deleted the app.

Kalanick later stepped down from Trump’s business advisory board after getting criticized for his ties to the new president.

Since then, the company has been dealing with sexual-harassment charges from a former female engineer who says HR ignored her complaints because her manager and alleged harasser was a “high performer.” Uber has brought in former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate, and has faced questions from its female engineers after a damning report of a sexist and toxic workplace culture. The company then had to ask Amit Singhal, its head of engineering, to resign after finding out that he, too, faced sexual-harassment charges while working at Google.

Did we mention that Google’s Waymo also recently sued Uber, alleging that a former Google executive who’s now at Uber stole technology and trade secrets from the self-driving pioneer?

All this was after Uber refused to play by California’s self-driving rules and ended up taking its self-driving vehicle tests to Arizona. Uber dismissed warnings about the legality of what it was doing for months, emails obtained by the Verge show.

Photo: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick talks to the media at the 2016 Breakthrough Prize awards ceremony at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. (Josie Lepe/ Bay Area News Group)


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  • What was it called again?… The sharing economy? Billions versus nickles and dimes.
    So good that Kalanick shared his thoughts with us.

  • charlie hustle

    the driver was belligerent. what does the ceo have to apologize for? engaging in a conversation with this guy?

  • Simon Miller

    Why is this company still called a “start up”? It has been around for years. And yes you are a jerk Travis. I’ve seen more mature 12 year olds.

    • stevetrujillo

      SO TRUE.

  • RS User/Driver

    Bait and switch – that was the plan. Billions for the team, many billions for eliminating the the drivers and get the public hooked on cheap ulta-convenience services while continuing to dup investors to waste more money.

    This jerk would have loved to deny access to the app for this driver but Bloomberg would find out and create a media stink. Uber does this to 1000’s of drivers daily because some drivers don’t do everything Uber wants them to do (i.e.drive to places NOBODY wants to go out of concerns for safety, not go work where Uber wants them to be, they will LOSE money in some cases, make $5 an hour for more work/stress/liability/potential conflict – think POOL, etc, etc.) and then charges them $100 or more to take a “class” to get their driving privileges back.

    So instead this guy will be put on unknowing periodic “time outs” where he can’t make any money but is not notified of that and when they do selectively send him business he will get the crud fares that no drivers want because Uber knows what those are before dispatching a driver. He will be punished, unless he makes so much money for Uber and bows to their desires that it doesn’t payoff.

    I was bad per Uber. I turned down sitting in traffic for hours to take someone to SFO. Realize a driver never gets a ride back to where they want(or need) to be so its a one-way fair but double gas, time and ware on your vehicle. As I sat in front of a busy hotel at 4pm on Friday in SJ. I got a request to pick someone up 12 miles and 25-30 minutes (in traffic) away but I didn’t accept because it made no sense, it could be a < $3 fare. I waited and watched several ubers pick up people there even though I was obviously closest and had been waiting without a ping for over another ping for half hour. They give certain drivers privilege. When I did finally get a ping it was there at the hotel, at 4:30pm on a friday and the guy wanted me to drive him to Modesto. Imagine 3 to 4 hours in traffic for which a driver earns 11 cents a minute or $6 an hour (or about $20 for 3+) and then a driver would get about $100 for mileage (80 miles) so the fare would be $120 for which Uber would take 25% or $30 and the driver would get $90 minus $30 for gas for a total of $60 for 5 or more hours of work. Then the driver pays wear and tear on the vehicle, insurance (3x if you have legal "rideshare" insurance) etc etc and then have to pay taxes on it.

    This guy and company abuses passengers as well and that's all be proven too. If you've ever selected and been charged "upfront pricing" because of "surge" at the moment you probably paid Uber about 50% and the driver got regular or 50%. It's blind or non-transparent manipulation. And they don't have to account for anything.