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Uber SVP of Business Emil Michael is being pressured to resign by the company’s board

Michael, a polarizing figure at the company, may be stepping down as the results of an investigation into the company’s culture are revealed.

A car with an Uber sign in the window beside a yellow taxi Roberto Machado Noa / Getty

Uber’s SVP of business Emil Michael is under pressure from the board of Uber to resign, rather than being fired, several sources told Recode.

Last night, Recode reported that the top executive at the car-hailing company — and CEO Travis Kalanick's closest confidant — was in the "crosshairs" of the directors, due to an investigation that is about to be released that shows a hostile workplace fraught with a retaliatory atmosphere and few systems in place to counter pervasive sexism and sexual harassment as well as other corporate mismanagement.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier today that Michael was planning to resign, but that is not accurate. In fact, sources say he’s not yet decided what to do, although he is considering doing so under pressure from the board, as part of the recommendations from the investigation by Covington & Burling. He might also be fired.

As part of the investigation, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder — a partner at the firm — interviewed people inside and outside the company about a number of incidents that involved Michael, including a now notorious visit to a South Korean escort bar. These people were asked details like who proposed the trip, the name of the venue, and how the women, who wore numbers, were seated, according to sources.

Michael, as Recode also reported, was also involved in an incident where an Uber executive he managed directly named Eric Alexander obtained the medical records of a rape victim in India. He also came under the spotlight when he suggested digging up dirt on journalists to BuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith in 2014.

While the results of the investigation — which the board is discussing today — didn’t bode well for Michael, many are surprised that he, who was otherwise deemed untouchable at the company, would step down. He is a close adviser to Kalanick — who is also considering a leave of absence — and played a crucial role in bringing in funding, as well as making deals like the acquisition of self-driving trucking company Otto and Uber’s exit from China.

But many said the board has recognized that it’s in need of a complete overhaul of its culture and its leadership. In the lead-up to the Holder report, the company was seeking a new COO to serve as Kalanick’s business partner. The $69 billion company also hired well-regarded Harvard Business School academic Frances Frei to be its SVP of leadership and strategy, as well as former Apple marketing executive Bozoma Saint John to be its first chief brand officer.

If Michael does decide to step down, Uber will be without a new head of business in addition to the vacancies in the COO, CFO, CMO, general counsel and senior vice president of engineering roles.

For a company in crisis, that lack of management could be devastating.

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