×

Uber's 'leaky board' scared Meg Whitman away from the CEO job

  • Uber's CEO search has been fraught by headlines of sexual harassment and infighting between top investors and former Chief Executive Travis Kalanick.
  • "I might be the only CEO in America that likes running something smaller than something bigger," Whitman said.

Meg Whitman, Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard at the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Meg Whitman, Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard at the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Uber's "leaky board" was part of what deterred Meg Whitman from the CEO role there, she said Wednesday on CNBC.

The ride-hailing start-up recently named Dara Khosrowshahi as CEO, but Whitman told CNBC that, despite rebuffing earlier reports, she was among candidates that presented to Uber's board in a marathon weekend meeting last month. But even if she was offered the job, Whitman said she wasn't sure she would have taken it.

"I was interested, there's no question," Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, told "Squawk on the Street" on Wednesday. "This a very leaky board, and I was discomforted by that at that time."

Uber's CEO search was fraught by headlines of sexual harassment and infighting between top investors and former Chief Executive Travis Kalanick, who remains on the board. Whitman, an Uber investor, said she had helped Uber out before Kalanick's departure, but she reiterated that she was not really considered a "candidate" for the top job until right before the board made its decision.

"I wasn't a candidate, until that Friday night when the board met in San Francisco. And I got a call from a board member on Friday night who said, 'We're not settled on a finalist here, would you ever reconsider, and what would it take?'" Whitman said. "We had a discussion about what it would take for any CEO to be successful there. We've got to settle the lawsuits between various factions of the board. Things have to take place in the board meeting, not outside the board meeting. ... Was that a formal discussion or an informal discussion? I don't know."

Whitman, who made her name as CEO of eBay, led the split of HP and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, creating two more focused businesses. Whitman has since stepped down from the board of HP, to focus on cutting costs and growing HPE's enterprise, software and services business.

"I might be the only CEO in America who likes running something smaller than something bigger, because it gives me a chance to be in-depth with customers," Whitman. "I like a more nimble, agile company and I have no plans to leave HPE. ... It's hard to imagine another five [years] but listen, I am here for the foreseeable future, because there's still work to do."

HPE shares edged about 1 percent higher Wednesday morning after the enterprise technology company posted better-than-expected quarterly results on Tuesday. Uber was not immediately available to comment.

As for Uber, Whitman said the company has had a remarkable growth trajectory and she's rooting for the new CEO.

"I hope it continues," she said.

— CNBC's Jordan Novet contributed to this report.