Uber Stumbles in Lengthy CFO Search Ahead of IPO

The ride-hailing company’s leading candidate, the CFO at VMware, has indicated he would likely withdraw

Uber Technologies Inc. chief Dara Khosrowshahi is under pressure from the board and investors to find a new finance chief after its leading candidate backed out, adding to the challenges of preparing for an IPO next year.

Mr. Khosrowshahi had hoped to reach an agreement with VMware Inc. CFO Zane Rowe for Uber’s long-vacant role. But Mr. Rowe recently indicated he will turn down the job, according to people familiar with the matter.

Representatives for Uber and VMware declined to comment.

Uber, which hasn’t had a CFO since 2015, needs a finance head to help steward an initial public offering planned for 2019. A new CFO would have the hefty task of shoring up the finances after Uber reported a loss of about $4.5 billion last year.

The company has so far come up short with its latest search under Mr. Khowsrowshahi. Laurence Tosi, who left Airbnb Inc. as CFO earlier this year, also recently passed on the role, these people said.

Mr. Khosrowshahi has asked candidates to commit to staying in the job for five years or more, some of the people said, a relatively long commitment.

Other candidates remain in the running for the position, the people said. The CEO has been working to identify diverse candidates for the post, some of the people said.

At a board meeting on Tuesday, directors pushed Mr. Khosrowshahi to speed the CFO search to help get the company’s finances in order, the people said. The directors also raised questions about why other positions remained open, including the chairman and chief compliance officer, the people said.

Mr. Khowsrowshahi named a new chief operating officer and general counsel a few months after becoming CEO of Uber in September.

He has previously discussed adding media magnate Barry Diller, his former boss at IAC/InterActiveCorp, as chairman of the 11-member board, though that idea fell through, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Diller didn’t respond to a request for comment.



Two appointees from SoftBank Group Corp. — Rajeev Misra and Marcelo Claure —have yet to start their board positions amid a review of the firm’s recent $7.7 billion investment in Uber by the multi agency panel known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.

Uber hired Mr. Khosrowshahi from Expedia Group Inc. after co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick was pushed out in June. Since then, Mr. Khowsrowshahi has been finding ways to pare losses and cut costs, including selling divisions such as the money-losing U.S. car leasing business to Fair.com and its Southwest Asian operations to rival Grab Inc.

While Uber has never been profitable, the company continued to boost ridership and revenue throughout last year despite a punishing stretch of scandals. Revenue in the fourth quarter rose 12% to $2.26 billion, while its loss narrowed to $1.1 billion, according to financial statements reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Its total revenue last year was $7.36 billion.

After facing charges of sexism by a former software engineer last year, Uber tried to find a woman for either its COO or CFO positions, according to people familiar with the matter.

For COO, Mr. Khosrowshahi ultimately settled on his former employee and Orbitz head Barney Harford. The company had interviewed Karenann Terrell, then the information chief of Walmart Stores Inc., and Helena Foulkes, the former executive vice president of CVS Health Corp., among others, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Uber last year hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s law firm, Covington & Burling LLP, to investigate its workplace practices. Among the firm’s recommendations after a monthslong probe were that Uber should recruit more diverse candidates for it senior leadership positions and adopt a version of what is known as the Rooney Rule, a National Football League policy that dictates that teams interview minority candidates for top jobs.

 


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Author:  Greg Bensinger 
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