The man designated as Uber’s new chief executive left Tehran for the US aged nine on the eve of the Iranian revolution, and became a driving force behind the success of the online travel company Expedia.
Dara Khosrowshahi, who was chosen ahead of Meg Whitman, the chief executive of HP Enterprise, and the former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, is expected to join the ride-hailing company after 12 years at the helm of Expedia, during which time it made a series of acquisitions and took on a dominant role in the travel industry.
In an internal memo seen by Reuters, Expedia’s chairman, Barry Diller, said nothing had been finalised, but “having extensively discussed this with Dara I believe it is his intention to accept” the Uber post.
Khosrowshahi, 48, emerged as a surprise appointment after a two-month search by Uber to replace its co-founder Travis Kalanick, who resigned after a string of controversies.
The Iranian-American’s task will be to steady the ship and restore confidence in a business that looked primed for global dominance but has been beset by struggles including legal challenges and allegations of discrimination.
The San Francisco-based company was valued at $68.5bn (£53bn) last year, although its perceived worth has slipped since then. Senior executives have departed, while the company has faced accusations of sexual discrimination and harassment, and legal headaches including an intellectual property dispute with Waymo, the company operating Google’s self-driving car.
Khosrowshahi’s predecessor resigned in June following pressure from investors, after video footage was released by Bloomberg showing him berating an Uber driver who had complained about the difficulty of making a living. The company’s reputation had already been harmed by the descriptions in a blogpost by a former employee of a workplace rife with gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
A review of its workplace culture by the former US attorney general Eric Holder recommended that Kalanick’s role be reduced. At least 20 employees have been sacked over complaints including discrimination and bullying.
Accepting the Uber job means Khosrowshahi is likely to have to forgo about half of an expected $95m loyalty bonus that was announced by Expedia in 2015 to tie the chief executive to his post until 2020. The payment in company stock came on top of a $1m salary and annual bonuses that have run to several millions.
After his family left Tehran, Khosrowshahi grew up in New York state, spending six of his teenage years raised solely by his mother after his father was detained in Iran, having returned to take care of his own father.
The young Khosrowshahi started a career in finance after attending Brown University. He moved from the investment bank Allen Company to management at InterActive Corp, which acquired Expedia and appointed Khosrowshahi as chief executive in 2005. Since then, he has been involved in several mergers and acquisitions, including buying Trivago and Travelocity. He has also sat on the board of the New York Times Company since 2015.
While Kalanick was briefly a member of Donald Trump’s advisory council before an Uber boycott prompted his resignation, Khosrowshahi has been an outspoken critic of the US president, particularly over his proposed travel ban. He said his family had been lured by the American dream “and now, our president is trying to pull it away from people of a certain origin and religious belief. I find that sad and very much against what our founders set out to build.”