Uber's next CEO: Mobility Report's picks for the top spot


Uber’s been running into some hiccups in its search for a new CEO to replace scandal-plagued founder Travis Kalanick. The latest rumor is Bank of America vice chairman Anne Finucane, but Recode‘s Kara Swisher has a rundown of several other potential candidates in the mix — and exactly why every one of them is either probably or definitely not interested (in the latter camp, former Ford CEO Alan Mulally).

Well, here at Automotive News, we’re always up for a challenge. We polled staffers for their suggestions on who should take the top spot at Uber. See our nominations below.


Barra Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Mary Barra

General Motors CEO

Barra, 55, has firsthand experience leading during crisis. She began her tenure as GM CEO weathering the tempest surrounding the company’s ignition-switch recall. She testified before Congress, was mocked on “Saturday Night Live” and had to deal with the company’s reputation-damaging revelations that employees deliberately misled and covered up a defect that led to over 120 fatalities.

Her response to the scandal wasn’t just expediently moving past the problem and scapegoating the engineers involved. Instead, she took the company culture to task, telling employees at a town hall that, “I never want to put this behind us. I want to put this painful experience permanently in our collective memories.”

Add to that, Recode reports that Uber recruiters are searching for a “no-drama CEO” who understands “complex transportation or distribution systems.” Barra is just the person for the job.

– Shiraz Ahmed

Zuckerburg Photo credit: FACEBOOK

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO 

The Facebook co-founder, chairman and CEO has managed to keep the social media platform afloat for 13 years without any severe scandals, so why not Uber?

Zuckerberg, 33, is familiar with Silicon Valley and has experience with leading a tech-centric data company. He’s also cheap, with an annual salary of $ 1 at Facebook. Plus, he’s married with a daughter, so maybe he’ll be a bit more focused on reshaping the company’s culture to be more family-friendly. Perhaps he could team up with Fiat Chrysler to offer soccer mom-style Uber rides with the Chrysler Pacifica minivan?

Not to mention, combining data, pictures and location services from Facebook and Uber might make it so there’s a ride waiting for you outside the bar before you even realize you’ve had one too many to drink. We’re just spitballing here.

Assuming that Zuckerberg doesn’t get preoccupied with other extracurriculars, he might find the CEO’s chair at Uber far more comfy than his current perch.

– Mike Wayland


Jim Harbaugh

University of Michigan football coach

Uber needs someone who can change the conversation immediately. Hardly anyone is better at that than Harbaugh, whether he is meeting the pope, making rap video cameos, sitting in the audience for “Judge Judy,”​ helping deliver a calf or rescuing victims of a car crash.

Harbaugh, 53, attacks everything he does “with enthusiasm unknown to mankind,” and that sounds like the perfect fit for a company trying to be the first autonomous ride-hailing service known to mankind. It would help Detroit that Harbaugh is close with one of the auto industry’s top executives: Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Hackett, who as Michigan’s interim athletic director hired Harbaugh in 2014.

Sports reporters love to throw out Harbaugh as a candidate every time there’s an opening for an NFL coach, even though he’s said he’s not interested, so why not start an equally nonsensical rumor? With Harbaugh at the helm, who’d have it better than Uber? Nobody.

– Nick Bunkley



Barb Samardzich

Former COO of Ford Motor Co.’s European division

Samardzich, 58, helped Ford weather the Great Recession in the U.S., and got very little credit for the work she did, then shipped off to become COO of Ford of Europe just in time for the recession there. Again, she did enormous work to get the company through its troubles — and again got very little credit for her efforts. (High-profile exec Jim Farley was happy to take the applause.)

So the former nuclear scientist is tough and may have a bit of a chip on her shoulder. Sounds like a good resume for the Uber job.

– James B. Treece

Bill Laimbeer

Former Detroit Pistons player and WNBA coach

Laimbeer, 60, was probably the most reviled (outside Detroit) player of the Pistons’ Bad Boys era, featuring a group of players who viewed the five-fouls-and-you’re-benched rule not as a limit, but a quota to be filled. He knows how to commit a foul, shrug off officials’ whistles and ignore, nay, encourage outside criticism with a sneer. Sound familiar?

He certainly could relate to the locker-room mentality that pervades much of Uber, and to those employees who couldn’t see any reason to send Kalanick packing. At the same time, he also coached the Detroit Shock of the WNBA and was a vocal proponent of competitive females. Laimbeer might have the perfect background to mend Uber’s significant internal divides.

– James B. Treece

Clinton Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Hillary Clinton

Former first lady, U.S. senator, secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate

If anyone has thick enough skin to handle the public scrutiny that will come with steering Uber to calmer waters, it’s Clinton. She survived one of the most controversial elections in U.S. history, taking hits from across the political spectrum. But toughness alone won’t be enough to ensure the future of the $ 70 billion startup.

Clinton, 69, has a long resume of leadership experience, from her time as first lady, to serving as the first female senator from New York, to her role as secretary of state under President Barack Obama. Running a startup isn’t exactly the same as running for public office, but leadership focused on serving the greater good may be just the change Uber employees can believe in.

She also is no stranger to breaking into boys clubs, and Uber’s Silicon Valley bro culture could take a dose of her medicine. While Clinton and Kalanick share a history of issues with emails, there’s little chance her companywide missives would include details on throwing kegs off rooftops or tips on how to hook up with fellow employees.

– Katie Burke

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