Uber hires recruiting giant Heidrick & Struggles to find sidekick for CEO Travis Kalanick

Uber has tapped executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles to lead its hunt for a new Chief Operating Officer, kicking off the ride-hailing company's effort to rehabilitate its bruised image after a string of controversies.

An Uber spokesperson told Business Insider that hiring the headhunting firm on Thursday was just the first step towards finding a COO, but that the company doesn't have a final timeline for when it hopes to make a decision on the right candidate.

The COO will work alongisde Travis Kalanick, the company's brash cofounder who has steered Uber to become the world's most valuable tech startup, but has also become a magnet for criticism.

Some observers expect Uber to find someone from the outside to provide a different perspective within the company and to act as a counterbalance to Kalanick. An Uber spokesperson however would not clarify whether the company was looking internally for the role as well, and only said the company is looking for the best candidate.

The board will be involved in the search as well, Uber said.

A partner for the next chapter

Heidrick & Struggles is a well-known name in Silicon Valley when it comes to finding new leadership. In 2001, the firm helped Google bring in the "adult" help the company needed when it placed Eric Schmidt as CEO. More recently, Heidrick & Struggles helped with the search at Microsoft that lead to Satya Nadella being crowned CEO in 2014.

Now the firm will be working to hiring a COO for the $69 billion company after Uber's CEO, Travis Kalanick, admitted he needed leadership help. A string of incidents over the last month has tarnished Uber's trust with its employees, investors, and customers.

Many industry insiders say the problems are a reflection of the aggressive, growth-at-all-costs culture that Kalanick has fostered at Uber, as it competes with rival Lyft and with the established taxi industry in a fiercely competitive market.

Kalanick has said he's looking "a peer who can partner with me to write the next chapter in our journey," but has said little else about the job responsibilities of the position.

Kalanick's need for a No. 2 at the company comes after a series of cascading crises has rattled the ride-hailing giant. In January, over 200,000 customers deleted Uber in one weekend as part of the #DeleteUber movement. Since then, the company has had to launch an internal investigation into its workplace culture after former engineer Susan Fowler published a tell-all blog post about the gender bias and sexual harassment she allegedly endured at the company. It's also been sued by its investor, Google, for alleged intellectual property theft and had details of a program designed to evade government authorities published in the last two weeks.

This article was first published on Business Insider.

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