Uber's frantic, drama-filled search for a new CEO is over.
Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive of Expedia, would be the company's new leader if he chooses to accept the position, in a surprise ending to a contentious selection process that saw two industry titans beaten out. Meg Whitman, chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprises, and Jeff Immelt, the departing chief executive of GE, were considered but ultimately didn't land the job.
For Khosrowshahi, the road ahead won't be easy. Uber has been rocked by a barrage of scandals in recent months, including allegations of harboring a dysfunctional workplace. Let's take a quick look at Uber's pick to lead the company.
1. He's led Expedia, and it's growing and profitable
Khosrowshahi has presided over a huge expansion of Expedia to more than 60 countries. He has expanded the company into an even larger online travel conglomerate by acquiring other consumer brands, such as booking sites Travelocity and Orbitz, and home rental site HomeAway.
Expedia is profitable and is worth about $23 billion. Experts say that his record there will help cut Uber's massive financial losses, eventually guiding the company closer to profitability.
In an interview with CNBC's Jim Cramer this year, Khosrowshahi stressed Expedia's focus on making it easier for millennials to book trips easily on their phones. Khosrowshahi's orientation toward expansion and mobile transactions seems like a natural fit for Uber, which is vying for a strong global footprint in transportation, food delivery and eventually driverless transit.
2. He's (relatively) young and experienced
At 48, Khosrowshahi isn't as young as the hoodie-wearing Mark Zuckerberg, who created Facebook when he was 19. But he's still young as far as U.S. CEOs go. “He has substantial CEO experience at a relatively young age,” said David Kass, a professor of finance at the University of Maryland. “Youth and experience are very important qualities in Silicon Valley.”
As Uber continues to reshape how people get around cities, that youthful vitality will come in handy to improve its services, which are frequently used by customers in their 20s and 30s, Kass said.
3. He's been critical of President Trump
While more than 100 technology companies joined legal challenges to Trump's immigration ban, Expedia was one of the first to do so.
Khosrowshahi is Iranian American. His family fled Iran in 1978, just before the country's revolution. As an immigrant from the age of 9, Khosrowshahi brings his own personal story to American politics and business.
“What some Americans don’t appreciate is how strong the brand of the American Dream is around the world,” he told Bloomberg earlier this year. “I’m an example of how powerful that product is. 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.”
4. 'He's in the catbird seat'
Khosrowshahi was named the highest paid chief executive in the United States by Equilar for his 2015 compensation, thanks largely to a long-term stock option package valued at $90.8 million he would gain access to over a period of several years.
As of Friday's close, that means Khosrowshahi has unvested options worth about $97.5 million were he to stay on at Expedia, according to an analysis by independent compensation consultant Brian Foley. Yet he also has additional options that would be worth another $82.5 million if aggressive stock price performance targets were met, bringing the total to at least $180 million.
But Foley said it is unlikely Khosrowshahi would give up pay to take the job at Uber -- and he could very well be paid more. "I suspect the real question is not how much he gives up but how much more did he get," said Foley. "He's in the catbird seat. They've now come to him -- it's got to be something that has some real sizzle to it."
Because Uber is a private company, the company will not be required to immediately release specifics on Khosrowshahi's pay, though it would become public if the company launches an IPO. But Foley expects the circumstances -- a high-profile, highly public search that included heavyweights like Immelt and Whitman -- would mean little will be left on the table.
"I have to figure they gave him new grants that would make him whole on whatever he would lose at Expedia and then threw a sweetener on top," Foley said, noting it would be unusual for a company losing its CEO to accelerate the vesting of his options. "They want to save that for the next guy."
Expedia didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
5. He's no Travis Kalanick. But he's still another male CEO.
Unlike Kalanick, the former chief executive who was seen as brash and armed with a short fuse, Khosrowshahi's demeanor is viewed as “even keeled and low-key,” Kass said. “He is not as volatile or unpredictable as the previous CEO.”
While some experts played down Uber's choice to hire a man as CEO, others highlighted Khosrowshahi's gender as a misstep for the company, the same company facing a crisis rooted in discrimination.
“Generally, gender should not be a factor in choosing a CEO; instead, qualifications and experience should prevail,” said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “However, there are times when gender should play a significant role in consideration, such as when a company is recovering from a gender-based crisis of confidence. Uber missed an opportunity to demonstrate they are moving beyond a culture of harassment and scandal.”
6. He's seen as a dealmaker and could lead Uber to an IPO
“Khosrowshahi is a strategic innovator, and has shown the ability to make timely deals at Expedia,” said Michael Farr, president of Farr, Miller & Washington, an investment management firm. Those skills could help Uber beat back its chief domestic rival, Lyft, as well navigate the stiff competition Uber faces abroad.
Along with creating a new culture for employees, putting Uber on the road to profitability would be one of Khosrowshahi first tasks, experts say.
Well respected within Silicon Valley and Wall Street, he could also be an enormous asset as the company considers going public. To investors skeptical of a company whose reputation has recently been battered, Khosrowshahi could help revamp Uber's image. Experts say that through his contacts, experience and track record, investment banking firms would be more inclined to work with Uber under Khosrowshahi if the company goes public.