Meet Uber's Choice for CEO: Dara Khosrowshahi

Uber Technologies Inc.'s next chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, isn't usually counted among the A-list of Silicon Valley chiefs, but the longtime internet executive brings a history of deal making and a track record of steady growth to the job.

Mr. Khosrowshahi, 48 years old, is closely tied to the media mogul Barry Diller, who hired the merger expert in 1998 when he was a young analyst at investment bank Allen & Co. He took over as CEO of Expedia Inc. in 2005 shortly after Mr. Diller spun out his travel properties.

Expedia has been a voracious acquirer ever since, especially over the past three years. It has swallowed Orbitz and Travelocity and bought vacation-rental service HomeAway to stave off Airbnb, another multibillion dollar startup. Expedia's market capitalization swelled to $23 billion, second in the U.S. only to archrival Priceline Group Inc., though it is dwarfed by Uber's latest private valuation.

Mr. Khosrowshahi forfeits a generous pay package to work for Uber. The travel company in 2015 awarded him compensation valued at nearly $95 million over five years, though he would have needed to meet several aggressive performance targets each year to collect it all.

Born in Tehran, Mr. Khosrowshahi moved to New York state after the Iranian Revolution made it unsafe for his family, which ran several manufacturing businesses, to return from a vacation that happened to coincide with the coup. "We understood that we were incredibly lucky to be in the U.S.," he told The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Khosrowshahi studied engineering at Brown University but switched to finance when he moved to New York. His big break came when he was a junior executive at Allen. Mr. Diller's QVC shopping network launched a hostile tender offer for Paramount Communications Inc. The bid ultimately failed, but the young adviser's number crunching impressed Mr. Diller, whose company he joined in 1998.

The Expedia boss joined many of his colleagues in the technology sector earlier this year in criticizing President Donald Trump's immigration policies. When the administration in January suddenly started turning away nationals from six Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, Mr. Khosrowshahi said the decision "represents the worse of his proclivity toward rash action versus thoughtfulness."

He couldn't immediately be reached for comment on Sunday. An Expedia spokeswoman declined to comment.

People close to Mr. Khosrowshahi have described him as a humble personality at ease with the mounting responsibilities placed on him over the course of his career. Expedia gained a commanding share of the U.S. online travel market under his guidance without facing serious challenges from competition authorities.

Expedia has fended off lawsuits from state and local governments as well as foreign countries over tax collection and other issues. The experience could help Mr. Khosrowshahi navigate Uber's many disputes with authorities in the markets where it operates.

Expedia, which is building a massive new headquarters on the Seattle waterfront, is similar in size to Uber in terms of workforce. Expedia employed about 20,000 full and part-time people as of Dec. 31, while fast-growing Uber has about 15,000 employees. Expedia, unlike Uber, is profitable and had $8.77 billion in revenue last year.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 27, 2017 23:25 ET (03:25 GMT)