Business & Tech

Amid turmoil, longtime Uber executive will step down

Ryan Graves was the first employee hired at Uber.
Ryan Graves was the first employee hired at Uber.

SAN FRANCISCO — Ryan Graves, the first employee at Uber Technologies Inc. and a longtime board member, is stepping down from his management role after a tumultuous year.

Graves serves as senior vice president of operations and is on the executive leadership team tasked with running the business in the absence of a chief executive.

Graves, 34, said in a staff e-mail that he’ll relinquish those positions in mid-September but will remain on the board to help the ride-hailing company search for a CEO to replace cofounder Travis Kalanick, who was ousted in June.


“We should have taken more time to reflect on our mistakes and make changes together,” Graves wrote. “Regardless of which role I hold in the future, I’ll be dedicated to supporting Uber’s leadership, partnering with Uber’s new CEO to understand the complexities of this business.”

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Uber declined to comment.

After Kalanick founded Uber with Garrett Camp in 2009, they brought on Graves as the first employee. A former management consultant in Chicago, Graves started as general manager and was soon promoted to be the company’s first CEO. He helped lay the groundwork in Uber’s hometown of San Francisco as officials grappled with the implications the mobile service would have on transportation.

Graves had taken on various roles during the last seven years. He led Uber’s expansion efforts as the company grew to 8,000 employees with operations in more than 450 cities. He was a reliable cheerleader internally.

Uber’s global workforce now exceeds 15,000 employees in 600 cities. But a series of scandals this year have weighed heavily on morale.


The company has been in upheaval following protests over ties to the Trump administration and accusations that its workplace is unwelcoming to women. Uber is also battling a lawsuit with Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving car business and a probe by the Department of Justice over the use of technology to deceive enforcement officials. Graves grew overwhelmed by the turmoil, which contributed to his decision to leave, said two people with knowledge of the matter.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed Thursday accused Kalanick of duping investor Benchmark into allowing him to fill three of the company’s board seats. The suit calls for his ouster as a director.

Benchmark, which holds a 13 percent stake in Uber, alleges Kalanick engaged in fraud by misleading investors about his effort to pack the board with allies willing to keep him as a director after he was removed as the company’s top executive, according to the suit.

“Kalanick acquired a disproportionate level of influence over the Board, ensuring that he would continue to have an outsized role in Uber’s strategic direction even if forced to resign as CEO,” lawyers for Benchmark said in the complaint filed in Delaware Chancery Court.

Uber declined to comment. A spokesman for Kalanick did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


The lawsuit is the culmination of a bitter fight between Benchmark and Kalanick. Bill Gurley, a partner at the venture capital firm, led an effort to oust Kalanick as CEO in June. He lined up four other major shareholders to endorse a letter asking for his resignation. It cited the trade secrets lawsuit from Waymo and the use of technology known as Greyball to effectively deceive enforcement officials looking to catch lawbreaking drivers. Both issues are highlighted in the suit.