The New York Times is reporting that Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has accepted the job as Uber’s CEO, taking the place of Travis Kalanick who was removed last month after a long series of scandals and ethical concerns. Bloomberg reports that Khosrowshahi has accepted the job.
Uber could surely benefit from the leadership of one of the most reliable executives in online travel. It’s telling that the organization would select a travel industry veteran instead of any of the other experienced executives, including Hewlett-Packard’s Meg Whitman or Jeffrey Immelt, the former head of General Electric.
Over the last two decades, in various roles, Khosrowshahi has overseen the growth of Expedia and its numerous brands. His experience dovetails nicely with the needs of Uber as an organization, given the company’s challenge of continuing its global expansion while becoming a more disciplined company internally.
Asked to clarify whether Khosrowshahi will take the Uber job, an Expedia spokesperson late Sunday night said: “We don’t comment on rumors or speculation.”
Khosrowshahi is a surprise pick who had not been mentioned publicly prior to tonight’s news. Whitman was seen as the leading pick recently, and Immelt had also been a leading contender but is said to have dropped out.
With Khosrowshahi, Uber will get an experienced CEO of a public company who has dealt with lots of obstacles along the way. Up until a few years ago, Expedia had gone through a period of several years when it was getting totally out-executed by rival Booking.com, and had to build a new global technology platform to help right its course.
Khosrowshahi has guided Expedia since 2005. From 1998 until that point, he was CFO of IAC and then CEO of IAC Travel. IAC was Expedia’s parent company at the time. From 1998 in partnership with Barry Diller, who is Expedia’s senior executive, Khosrowshahi made a slew of acquisitions, including that of Expedia, Hotels.com, Hotwire, TripAdvisor, and many more.
During his time serving as CEO of Expedia, Khosrowshahi has overseen its global expansion, and in 2015 it acquired Travelocity, Orbitz, and vacation rental giant HomeAway among other buys.
In Skift’s Definitive Oral History of Online Travel, Khosrowshahi detailed numerous anecdotes about identifying acquisition targets, including TripAdvisor, which was at the time being pursued by Yahoo. Instead of identifying an acquisition target, it appears that now he has identified a company that he believes can benefit from his experience.
Question Marks for Expedia
If Khosrowshahi indeed transitions to head Uber, it leaves open the question of who would succeed him at Expedia. The timing wouldn’t be opportune for Expedia, which is in the middle of integrating HomeAway and getting more involved in alternative accommodations.
There are certainly qualified internal candidates within Expedia’s ranks to take up the CEO role, but Khosrowshahi’s sudden and surprise departure could present challenges for the company.
Dara Khosrowshahi spoke on two panels at last year’s Skift Global Forum. See him speak about the history of online travel here:
Khosrowshahi also spoke about the current state of Expedia and online travel agencies. Watch that here: