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Steve Jobs biographer says a Travis Kalanick comeback at Uber is possible — 'I've seen this movie before'

  • Walter Isaacson says, "I've seen this movie before, which is what happened at Apple."
  • In 1985, Jobs was ousted as chairman of Apple, only to return years later and change the world.
  • Kalanick stepped down as Uber CEO late Tuesday, bowing to shareholder pressure after a series of scandals.
Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc.
Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc.

Americans love a great comeback, so don't discount the possibility that Uber's Travis Kalanick may return in the future to once again lead the company he helped start, Walter Isaacson told CNBC on Friday.

"It's very hard right now to put Travis back in position. Then again, I've seen this movie before, which is what happened at Apple," said Isaacson, author of the best-selling biography "Steve Jobs" about the late co-founder of Apple. Isaacson is CEO of the Aspen Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

In 1985, Jobs was ousted as chairman of Apple; only to return years later and change the world with the introduction of the iPod and then the iPhone.

Like Jobs, "Travis is not someone to be underestimated," Isaacson said on "Squawk on the Street." "This is the wonderful thing about America, especially in the age of Oprah, you're allowed to get rehabilitated; you're allowed to have second acts."

Kalanick stepped down as Uber CEO late Tuesday, bowing to shareholder pressure after a series of scandals at the company, including evidence of a workplace rife with sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The 40-year-old will remain on Uber's board of directors.

"Travis is so interwoven with this company. I think his passion for it is what allowed it to grow," said Isaacson, former CNN chief and former TIME magazine editor. Uber has "changed everything" in terms of urban transportation systems, designing cities, and how people get around, he argued.

However, Isaacson argued Uber needs to "tamp down" talk about Kalanick's future in order to get a "really strong CEO who will feel empowered working for a board in which Travis and the other co-founders have so much voting stock."

"It's a great job for a really good CEO," he said.