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Travis Kalanick has hired ‘CEO advisory’ firm Teneo to improve his tarnished image

Time for some PR? I’d say so.

former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick
Travis Kalanick needs an image upgrade.
Michael Porro / Getty

Ousted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has hired high-profile “CEO advisory” firm Teneo to help him manage his own embattled interests, according to several sources close to the situation.

So, get ready for some positive stories on the embattled entrepreneur via open-hearted interviews (except to heartless Recode, because we always get left out of those for being too mean to delicate tech executives)!

Enter Teneo, which was founded by a trio of execs — Declan Kelly, Doug Band and Paul Keary — with close ties to Democratic power players like Bill and Hillary Clinton. They have branched out with a variety of services in 12 divisions and — via a combination of hiring big-name “formers” (former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former NYC top cop William Bratton) — have attracted giant corporate clients such as Dow Chemical.

According to a 2016 New York Times story on the firm, which has attracted some controversy itself: “Teneo bills itself as the chief executive’s best friend. Its pitch is that, with Teneo’s help, C.E.O.s can become not just business leaders but ‘thought leaders and global ambassadors,’ according to its website.”

Indeed, right on its homepage now is a bromide that would appeal to Kalanick, who has been mired in trouble for his dysfunctional management of the car-hailing company: “50% of a company’s reputation is created or lost by its CEO. Where’s reputation management on your agenda?”

Also intriguing for the aggressive entrepreneur, whom many sources said has been trying to figure out ways to regain his old job from which he was fired after a revolt of major shareholders: “Teneo frames its offerings to C.E.O.s like this, according to several former employees: You can’t trust your board of directors, who could fire you. You can’t trust your lieutenants, who want your job. Which is why you need Teneo.”

Um, perfect for Travis, I’d say.

Sources said Kalanick talked to a number of firms recently, in a bid to turn around his now tarnished image, before settling on Teneo. Given all the various lawsuits and other controversial issues in which he is a principal, it makes sense to get some pricey advising. Sources added that Kalanick has also had to hire some lawyers of his own, too.

Sources said that Uber is not paying for Kalanick’s personal PR needs, which should go without saying (but does not go without saying, cuz this is Uber, Jake).

So, I am trying to reach Kalanick's rep at Teneo — whose jaunty name is Jimmy Asci — for comment, but the firm’s website is fantastically free of info, links to email or phone numbers. (If I only had a heart, I'd be friends with the sparrows and the boy who shoots the arrows, and they’d also call!)

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