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These key candidates could replace Uber CEO Travis Kalanick

The embattled ride-hail company needs a no-nonsense executive with some form of experience with distributed networks.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Wang K'aichicn / VCG via Getty Images

The sudden departure of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has upended the startup’s latest plans, jumpstarting a search for a new CEO.

Board director Bill Gurley, one of the biggest voices inside the company agitating to remake the company’s leadership, is eager to find someone who could lead Uber into an eventual public offering.

Shareholders, along with Gurley, are looking for someone who has deep experience, possibly a well-known executive who knows how to manage a big company and knowledge of marketplaces like Uber’s, sources say.

Kalanick, who with co-founder Garrett Camp controls the company, will remain on the board. That means he’ll likely still have some sway over who the company chooses to replace him. Some candidates who had been considered for its still-open COO position may be weighed to now lead the company.

Some COO candidates had shown lukewarm interest in the job knowing they would still have to report to Kalanick. His departure now opens up the possibility these candidates may be more inclined to lobby for the job.

Uber will more likely have to find an outside contender to lead the company, given all the high-ranking executive departures in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment and a toxic workplace culture. Many of those left to lead the company during the search for a CEO have little operational experience outside of the ride-hail company.

Some have speculated that former Ford CEO Mark Fields or Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg would be possible replacements, but that’s very unlikely. Fields was pushed out from the company for not moving quick enough on innovation, and sources say Sandberg is staying put at the social media company.

Here are some other prospectives:

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Thomas Staggs
Kevork Djansezian / Getty

Thomas Staggs: Staggs, who was considered to be the COO, had the same role at Disney until 2016 and was believed to be the heir apparent to Disney CEO Robert Iger before he stepped down. At the company, which he joined in 1990, Staggs spent several years as its CFO, during which he oversaw the acquisition of Pixar Films. Given shareholder concern over Uber’s path to profitability and the eventuality of a public offering — and the current CFO vacancy at the ride-hail player — Staggs could be a strategic pick. However, the executive reportedly stuttered when he became Disney’s COO in 2015, which may not bode well for his operational acumen.

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Susan Wojcicki
Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Susan Wojcicki: A long-time Google employee, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki was also a name that was considered for the No. 2 role. But it would have been unlike the executive, who’s led the video streaming service since 2014, to have taken a second-place spot to Kalanick. Now that he’s out of the picture, it may still be a shot in the dark but there’s little doubt about her qualifications. Wojcicki led the company’s 2006 acquisition of YouTube while she headed up Google VIdeo.

Alan Mulally: Mulally, the former Ford CEO who retired in 2014, might seem like an odd pick. It’s not clear whether Mulally would come out of retirement for this gig, but the long-time transportation executive has experience turning around a troubled company. Mulally took on the role at the automaker’s lowest point, after leaving Boeing in 2006. He not only turned the company’s profits around but also introduced a plan, called One Ford, that upped employee morale and encouraged collaboration. Mulally was so beloved, much of the conversation around the firing of his successor Mark Fields centered around how to return the automaker to the days of Mulally. He’d also be joining at a time that Uber’s automaker relationships are more important than ever as it pursues autonomous vehicle development.

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Alan Mulally
William Thomas Cain / Getty

Dave Clark: Clark, a lesser-known name than the aforementioned, leads Amazon’s global operations and customer service and has been with the company across a number of departments since 1999. Clark’s experience at Amazon could be useful in leading the car-hailing company that continues to pour resources into subsidizing its rides in most markets around the world. Few do logistics as well as Uber and Amazon.

John Donahoe: Former eBay CEO John Donahoe recently took a new job at cloud company ServiceNow, but he may still be a smart pick to lead Uber. Donahoe, who took over eBay in 2008 as now Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman’s replacement, headed up the e-commerce company’s marketplace for three years before becoming top dog.

We’ll continue to update this list.

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