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Uber unveiled its first self-driving car in May, announcing it had begun testing an autonomous vehicle on the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania/AFP

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Embattled Uber CEO Kalanick steps down

The New York Times reported earlier Wednesday that five of the company’s major investors had demanded his departure/AFP

San Francisco, United States, June 21 – Uber said Wednesday that its embattled chief executive Travis Kalanick had agreed to step down from his job, as the company tries to clean up a corporate culture that has sparked charges of harassment and discrimination.

Kalanick had already been on a leave of absence aimed at restoring confidence in the scandal-plagued ridesharing giant.

The New York Times reported earlier Wednesday that five of the company’s major investors had demanded his departure.

“I can confirm Travis has resigned,” a spokesman told AFP in an email.

He also quoted from a board statement saying that “Travis has always put Uber first”.

‘Bold decision’ 

“This is a bold decision and a sign of his devotion and love for Uber,” the board said.

The pioneering company has been facing pressure to rein in a no-holds-barred management style led by Kalanick and to reform its workplace culture.

Kalanick is to stay on as a board member, Uber said.

The investors, who made their demand in a letter, include one of Uber’s biggest shareholders, the venture capital firm Benchmark, The New York Times said.

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In the letter, titled “Moving Uber Forward”, the investors told Kalanick that he must immediately leave as part of a necessary change in leadership, the Times reported.

Kalanick consulted with at least one Uber board member, and after long discussions with some of the investors he agreed to step down, the paper said.

‘I love Uber’ 

“I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight,” Kalanick said in a statement, quoted by The Times and confirmed by Uber.

Last week, Kalanick said one of the reasons for taking a leave of absence was the recent death of his mother.

Uber, which is the world’s richest venture-backed startup, valued at some $68 billion, operates in dozens of countries despite problems with regulators in many jurisdictions and protests from established taxi operators.

Kalanick had been seen as the driving force behind Uber despite a series of embarrassing missteps.

Questionable practices 

Earlier this month the group, based in San Francisco, parted ways with its number two executive, Emil Michael, who had reportedly been linked to a number of questionable practices at Uber, including a visit to a South Korean escort-karaoke bar and an attempt to dig up embarrassing information on journalists.

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A week earlier Uber said it had fired 20 people after examining 215 claims of discrimination, harassment, unprofessional behavior and bullying.

Uber also this month released a 13-page document calling for major reforms at the company based on a probe led by former US attorney general Eric Holder, who investigated allegations of misconduct and ethical lapses.

The report, recommendations of which were adopted by the board, said Uber “should reformulate its written cultural values” to “reflect more inclusive and positive behaviors”.

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