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Uber says changes are coming, with executives’ fates uncertain

In this March 15, 2017, file photo, a sign marks a pick-up point for the Uber car service at LaGuardia Airport in New York. Media were reporting Sunday, June 11, 2017, that Uber’s board is considering placing Kalanick, the CEO of the ride-hailing company, on leave. (Seth Wenig/AP)

After a Sunday meeting that lasted more than six hours, a representative for Uber Technologies Inc.’s board said directors approved several changes, without providing clarity on the fates of Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick or his confidant and head of business, Emil Michael.

The board approved all recommendations from an investigation it commissioned, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the representative said. The ride-hailing company plans to begin implementing the changes early this week and outline them to employees at a meeting Tuesday. The company declined to comment further.

On the agenda at Sunday’s meeting were a possible leave of absence for Kalanick and potentially parting ways with Michael. The pair’s involvement in at least two incidents – the mishandling of an Indian rape victim’s medical records and a visit to a Seoul karaoke bar that reportedly prompted a human-resources complaint – came up in the course of Holder’s probe, Bloomberg reported. It’s unclear what actions Holder’s team suggested.

The investigation by Holder’s law firm Covington & Burling LLP and a separate examination of HR matters by Perkins Coie LLP were provoked by allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination from former employee Susan Fowler in February. The scope soon expanded to include over 200 HR claims and resulted in the firings of more than 20 employees. Eric Alexander, who oversaw business in Asia, departed amid reports of the India rape controversy last week.

In addition to responding to a cavalcade of scandals, Kalanick has had to grapple with the accidental death of his mother, whose funeral was Friday.

As attention turns to Uber’s CEO and one of his deputies, the uncertainty highlights a critical weakness in the company’s top ranks. In the last four months, Uber lost a president and the heads of its autonomous driving unit, finance, mapping, policy, software engineering, and product and growth. The role of chief financial officer remains open, and it’s actively searching for an operating chief to provide leadership help to Kalanick.

Uber is racing to fill holes in its leadership. Last week, the company said it hired Frances Frei, a Harvard Business School professor, as senior vice president for strategy and leadership, and Apple Inc.’s Bozoma Saint John as chief brand officer.