Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer came to the defense of Travis Kalanick on Tuesday, calling him a “friend” and “phenomenal leader.”
Speaking at the annual Stanford Directors’ College, Mayer said Kalanick was simply unaware of the toxic culture growing within the company—a culture many say he helped inspire.
“I just don’t think he knew,” Mayer said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “When your company scales that quickly, it’s hard.”
She went on to suggest that Kalanick didn’t know about Uber’s sexual harassment problems because of how fast the company was growing and praised him for turning the company into the ride-hailing giant it is today.
“Scale is incredibly tricky,” Mayer said. “I count Travis as one of my friends. I think he’s a phenomenal leader; Uber is ridiculously interesting.”
Perhaps a “phenomenal leader” doesn’t need to know what is going on at the company he led for the last seven years. But it’s much harder to give Kalanick a pass once you consider the controversies he created on his own during his tenure. In February, Kalanick was caught on camera cursing at his driver. A month later, it was discovered he took company execs to an escort bar in South Korea, and earlier this month we got a look at his “frat bro” letter to employees that outlined rules for having sex with each other.
He was also very much aware that one of his employees took the medical records of a rape victim and started to believe the incident was part of a plan to sabotage the company.
Mayer, who formerly worked at Google before taking control of Yahoo, has been rumored as a favorite to take over Kalanick’s position as CEO following his resignation earlier this month.