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Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, has been under pressure for his aggressive management style.

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Wang Zhao/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO — In Uber’s continuing attempt to repair its reputation over a series of scandals stemming from its bad-boy culture, its co-founder Travis Kalanick said he would take a leave of absence as chief executive. The company also announced it would embark on a sweeping reorganization to ensure that executives are more closely supervised by its board of directors.

At a packed meeting with employees on Tuesday morning, Uber released 13 pages of recommendations compiled as part of an investigation into sexual harassment and other wrongdoing conducted by the former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. and his law firm, Covington & Burling.

But even as Uber promised to reform itself, an exchange between board members onstage highlighted the company’s challenges. In front of employees, the board member Arianna Huffington talked about how having one female director typically leads to more female directors. David Bonderman, a fellow board member and a founding partner at the private equity firm TPG, replied that adding more women to the board would result in “more talking.”

The remark left people aghast, according to those who were there, and set off a storm of criticism on Twitter.

Mr. Bonderman later apologized to Ms. Huffington and Uber’s employees in an email, before resigning from the board a few hours later.

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“I do not want my comments to create distraction as Uber works to build a culture of which we can be proud,” Mr. Bonderman said in a statement. “I need to hold myself to the same standards that we’re asking Uber to adopt. Therefore, I have decided to resign from Uber’s board of directors.”



OPEN Document

Document: Holder Recommendations on Uber


Before the meeting, Mr. Kalanick said in an email to employees that he would take time off to work on himself and reflect on building a “world-class leadership team” for the company. He did not specify how long he would be away, and he did not appear at the staff meeting.

Uber did not release Mr. Holder’s full report. Instead, the company highlighted the changes it would make to fix its problems. The recommendations included limiting Mr. Kalanick’s responsibilities by reallocating some of his duties, and by giving a chief operating officer more responsibilities at the company. Mr. Holder also recommended that Uber appoint an independent chairman and create an oversight committee on the board. The goal is to bolster the checks and balances on management, according to the recommendations.

The proposed changes amounted to a rejection of the practices and culture that Uber has used to build itself into a nearly $70 billion company and upend the way people use transportation worldwide. Under Mr. Kalanick, Uber flouted rules and regulations to bring its ride-summoning service to hundreds of cities, prized growth above all else, and often turned a blind eye to corporate misbehavior.

Uber’s practices ballooned into a crisis starting in February, when a former employee wrote a blog post detailing what she said was a history of sexual harassment and lack of response from the company’s management. The post set off a deluge of other complaints from staff members about Uber’s culture, exposing a toxic environment.

Uber has tried to clean up its act. It has fired 20 employees in the last few months for transgressions that included sexual harassment. Emil Michael, a top lieutenant of Mr. Kalanick’s, left the company this week. And many other executives have departed, creating something of a leadership void at the company.

On Sunday, Uber’s board met for nearly seven hours at Covington & Burling’s office in Los Angeles. Afterward, the board said it had unanimously voted to adopt all the recommendations in Mr. Holder’s report.

“Implementing these recommendations will improve our culture, promote fairness and accountability, and establish processes and systems to ensure the mistakes of the past will not be repeated,” Liane Hornsey, Uber’s chief of human resources, said in a statement on Tuesday. “While change does not happen overnight, we’re committed to rebuilding trust with our employees, riders and drivers.”

Reactions to Uber

As Uber has aggressively expanded into new cities, it has never run away from conflict, whether it is a fight with local regulators, existing taxi associations or even its own drivers. Here is a sampling of reactions to the news that Mr. Kalanick will take a leave of absence.