Mad Money

Cramer: Why Uber made the right call with its new CEO

Key Points
  • "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer applauds Uber's decision to name former Expedia chief Dara Khosrowshahi its CEO.
  • From building out a secular trend in travel to making smart acquisitions, Khosrowshahi has the right chops for the job, Cramer says.
  • In a time of turmoil for Uber, the new CEO will bring a steady hand to the chaos, Cramer says.

After months of hearing about scandals at Uber and the privately-held company's very public search for a new CEO, CNBC's Jim Cramer finally found something to be pleased with.

"I spend a lot of time criticizing boards of directors for failing to fire chief executives who've so obviously done a poor job of creating value for their shareholders. That's why, when a company does something really right, I think they deserve praise," the "Mad Money" host said. "So let me break down why exactly I believe Uber made the right call when they hired Dara Khosrowshahi."

The ride-hailing company hired Khosrowshahi, the former CEO of Expedia, after its co-founder and former CEO, Travis Kalanick, stepped down due to pressure from shareholders.

Uber's search for Kalanick's replacement involved high-profile candidates such as HP's Meg Whitman and Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, but looking back at Khosrowshahi's history at Expedia, Cramer insisted he was the right choice for the job.

"The two situations — Expedia 13 years ago and Uber right now — are more alike you than you think," the "Mad Money" host said.

In August 2005, IAC/InterActiveCorp, a large conglomerate of online businesses, spun off Expedia into a separate company. Khosrowshahi, then the chief financial officer of IAC, was appointed Expedia's new CEO.

In his 12 years, shares of Expedia climbed from $22.43 from the stock's first trading day to over $145 as of Wednesday's close, a 550 percent gain. Expedia's sales quadrupled while Khosrowshahi was CEO, from $2.1 billion in 2005 to $8.8 billion in 2016.

Cramer said the situation mirrors Uber's because back in 2005, online entities like Expedia and Priceline were still fairly new and on their way to transforming how consumers organized their travels.

Rather than physically visiting travel agents, people could book flights, find hotels and compare prices directly online.

"To put it into contemporary terms, Expedia and Priceline were the Uber and Lyft of the travel industry, and Khosrowshahi? Well, he played a major role in shepherding that transformation," Cramer said. "When he took over at Expedia, the company had $15 billion in annual bookings; as of last year, [it had] $72 billion in bookings."

And Khosrowshahi did not ignore that powerful secular trend. As Expedia's CEO, he orchestrated several strong acquisitions that contributed to his company's growth.

In 2013, Expedia bought a controlling stake in Trivago, a price comparison website that became a very high-growth asset for Expedia. Even though Trivago has since spun off to become an independent company, the deal still made sense for Expedia, Cramer said.

Expedia's $1.6 billion acquisition of Orbitz in February 2015 was even more of a game-changer for the company, and its $3.9 billion purchase of HomeAway in November 2015 put Expedia on a competitive playing field with the likes of privately-held rental giant Airbnb.

"Put it all together and Khosrowshahi did a lot of things at Expedia that he now can repeat at Uber. He built a company with tremendous scale that gives it a major leg up when dealing with hotels and rental car agencies and airlines," Cramer said.

The CEO also led Expedia through a difficult time. After the 2008 financial recession, travel lost popularity and Expedia came under pressure for several years before bouncing back.

But Cramer said Khosrowshahi's first months at Uber have been promising thus far. He's demonstrated a "steadier hand" than his feisty predecessor, issuing an apology to the people of London after the U.K. city revoked Uber's operating license.

"After months of flailing around, Uber finally made a great decision when they brought in Expedia's Dara Khosrowshahi to run the company," Cramer said. "This unicorn still faces a lot of challenges — for starters, Khosrowshahi needs to figure out how Uber can turn a profit — but maybe, just maybe, when the company's ready to come public in a few years, it might actually be worth owning because this man's at the helm."

WATCH: Cramer on Uber's promising new CEO

Cramer: Why Uber made the right call with its new CEO
Cramer: Why Uber made the right call with its new CEO

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