Uber could go public as soon as 18 months from now.
That was the news delivered to Uber's 16,000-person workforce today by the embattled transportation company's new chief executive, outgoing Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, according to an employee who attended the meeting.
Khosrowshahi wasn't definitive, the person said. In a meeting that was broadcast from San Francisco across the world, Khosrowshahi said the eight-year-old company could go public in a timeline of 18 to 36 months. But he added that he would have to see.
In addressing the issue at his first all-hands meeting, Khosrowshahi appeared to be trying to allay one of the biggest concerns not only for investors but also for employees. With a $68 billion valuation by private investors, Uber is the most valuable start-up Silicon Valley has produced over the past decade, but financiers have grown frustrated by the lack of a timeline for getting their payouts. Employees have also felt pent up, as many are compensated with options in the company.
The loose timeline also gives Uber's incoming leader an opportunity to resolve many of the controversies facing the company. That includes litigation with Google in a major case in which Uber is accused of stealing trade secrets from Google's self-driving car program, as well as two pending federal investigations.
On Tuesday, the company confirmed that the Department of Justice is probing whether executives broke U.S. laws prohibiting bribery of officials in foreign countries. Uber is cooperating with the investigation, spokesman Matt Kallman said.
Under Uber's previous hard-charging chief executive, Travis Kalanick, Uber expanded to 77 countries in just eight years and built up a reputation for rule-breaking and for a “bro” culture that has been hostile to women and minorities. Federal officials are also probing whether the company used special software to evade authorities in places where ride-sharing services were banned or restricted.
It is not known how much it cost to have Khosrowshahi take the job, but he likely did not come cheap. As the chief executive of Expedia, he was named the highest paid chief executive in the U.S. 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. He also had additional options that would be worth $82.5 million if aggressive stock price performance targets were met, bringing his take-home pay to at least $180 million.
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.