It’s not every day that journalism literally brings a disgraced executive to his knees, but that’s reportedly what Bloomberg did to Uber’s Travis Kalanick last year.
In late February, Bloomberg published video footage that showed former CEO Kalanick in the back seat of a private UberBlack, excoriating a driver who complained about fare cuts. “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit!” Kalanick yells at driver Fawzi Kamel in the tape. “They blame everything in their life on somebody else!”
The day the footage was published, Kalanick and two other executives watched it in a hallway outside a hotel conference room in San Francisco, according to a new story from Bloomberg. They’d been meeting to discuss the results of a survey that showed Uber’s customers liked the company, but had a negative view of Kalanick:
As the clip ended, the three stood in stunned silence. Kalanick seemed to understand that his behavior required some form of contrition. According to a person who was there, he literally got down on his hands and knees and began squirming on the floor. “This is bad,” he muttered. “I’m terrible.”
The episode clearly rankled Kalanick, who according to Bloomberg “decided that he should apologize privately to Kamel.” The meeting took place less than 48 hours after the video surfaced at a luxury apartment complex in San Francisco. He planned to meet with his one-time Uber driver for five or so minutes, apologize, and leave. Instead:
The meeting went on for more than an hour, with Kalanick re-debating Kamel over Uber’s pricing policies. Somehow, by the end, Kalanick suggested that he give the driver Uber stock, according to people familiar with the discussion.
The encounter reportedly alarmed Wayne Ting, who at the time ran Uber’s San Francisco business, and joined the meeting between Kalanick and Kamel:
In an email later circulated among employees and directors, Ting said he was deeply disturbed by what he saw. He told people he called his own father to seek moral counsel. He worried that paying the driver off with Uber’s own shares was financially irresponsible—would Uber compensate all of its drivers who felt mistreated? To Ting, the incident reeked of a lack of self-control. In the email, he wrote that Kalanick “no longer had the moral standing” to lead Uber.
Kalanick ultimately agreed to pay Kamel $200,000 out of his own pocket, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg—you might say, taking responsibility for his own shit. A spokesperson for Kalanick told Bloomberg the meeting “ended on a positive note.”