Updated Jun. 12, 2017 at 10:57 a.m.

Tech wrap: Board adpots Uber culture report; Sirius takes Pandora stake; Google fashion archive; nanotech fraud case

Published: 2017-06-12 06:30:00
Updated: 2017-06-12 10:57:00

Bulldog Bulldog

In today's Bulldog roundup of technology and science news:

  • Board adopts report on Uber's culture
  • Sirius XM buys stake in music streaming site Pandora
  • New Google project digitizes world's top fashion archives
  • Nanotech fraud case

The details:

  • Board adopts report on Uber's culture

Uber's Board of Directors has adopted a series of recommendations about the company's corporate culture from former Attorney General Eric Holder, but it was silent late Sunday on whether it would approve a leave of absence for the ride service's embattled CEO.

A spokesman confirmed that the board met with Holder and Tammy Albarrán, both partners with Covington & Burling LLP, a law firm hired to investigate complaints of widespread sexual harassment and other deep-seeded cultural problems at Uber.

Board members voted unanimously to adopt all of the firm's recommendations, which were to be released to employees on Tuesday, the spokesman said.

He would not comment on any further actions taken by the board, including whether it discussed the future of CEO Travis Kalanick. Multiple media outlets reported Sunday that the board was considering a leave of absence for Kalanick.

Uber Technologies Inc. has been rocked by accusations that its management has fostered a workplace environment where harassment, discrimination and bullying are left unchecked.

Uber announced last week that it fired 20 employees for harassment problems after a separate investigation by a different law firm.

Under Kalanick, Uber has shaken up the taxi industry in hundreds of cities and turned the San Francisco-based company into the world's most valuable startup. Uber's valuation has climbed to nearly $70 billion.

But Kalanick has acknowledged his management style needs improvement. The 40-year-old CEO said earlier this year that he needed to "fundamentally change and grow up."

In February, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler wrote on a blog that she had been propositioned by her boss in a series of messages on her first day of work and that superiors ignored her complaints. Uber set up a hotline for complaints after that and hired the law firm of Perkins Coie to investigate.

That firm checked into 215 complaints, with 57 still under investigation.

Uber has been plagued by more than sexual harassment complaints in recent months. It has been threatened by boycotts, sued and subject to a federal investigation that it used a fake version of its app to thwart authorities looking into whether it is breaking local laws.

Kalanick lost his temper earlier this year in an argument with an Uber driver who was complaining about pay, and Kalanick's profanity-laced comments were caught on video.

In a March conference call with reporters after that incident, board member Arianna Huffington expressed confidence that Kalanick would evolve into a better leader. But Huffington, a founder of Huffington Post, suggested time might be running out.

He's a "scrappy entrepreneur," she said during the call, but one who needed to bring "changes in himself and in the way he leads."

The board meeting comes fresh on personal tragedy in Kalanick's life. His mother was killed in late May after the boat she and her husband were riding in hit a rock. Kalanick's father suffered moderate injuries.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Chief Business Officer Emil Michael is planning to resign as soon as Monday.

The company has faced high turnover in its top ranks. In March, Uber's president, Jeff Jones, resigned after less than a year on the job. He said his "beliefs and approach to leadership" were "inconsistent" with those of the company.

In addition to firing 20 employees, Uber said Tuesday that it was hiring an Apple marketing executive, Bozoma Saint John, to help improve its tarnished brand. Saint John most recently was head of global consumer marketing for Apple Music and iTunes.

  • Sirius XM buys stake in music streaming site Pandora

Pandora is raising cash to help it take on Spotify and other streaming music services.

The online music service is selling a 19 percent stake in its business to satellite radio company Sirius XM for $480 million. Pandora will pay a $22.5 million breakup fee to private equity firm KKR for breaking up a previously agreed $150 million deal.

Pandora, which is based in Oakland, California, will raise another $200 million selling its Ticketfly ticket service to Eventbrite — a service Pandora bought for $450 million in 2015.

Pandora works as an internet radio, and most users listen for free. But its financial losses have deepened in the past few years while its user base has been stagnant, and in March it launched a subscription service that copied the strategy of competitors like Spotify and Apple Music. Like those apps, it can now charge users and then let them pick the songs they want to listen to.

Sirius will be able to pick three people for Pandora's board, one of whom will be chairman. Most of Sirius' listeners are in cars, and by investing in Pandora, it gets entry into the digital radio business. Analysts say there are opportunities for the two companies to collaborate and bundle products.

  • New Google project digitizes world's top fashion archives

Anyone who has waited on a long, snaking line to get into a fashion exhibit at a top museum knows just how popular they've become — and more broadly, how fashion is increasingly seen as a form of artistic and cultural expression.

Google Inc. is acknowledging this reality by expanding its Google Art Project — launched in 2011 to link users with art collections around the world, online — to include fashion.

The new initiative , "We Wear Culture," which launched Thursday, uses Google's technology to connect fashion lovers to collections and exhibits at museums and other institutions, giving them the ability to not only view a garment, but to zoom in on the hem of a dress, examine a sleeve or a bit of embroidery on a gown up close, wander around an atelier, or sit down with Metropolitan Museum of Art costume restorers.

The project partners with more 180 cultural institutions, including the Met's Costume Institute, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Japan's Kyoto Costume Institute, and the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. It comprises over 30,000 garments.

The site also offers specially curated exhibits. You can click your way to, for example, a curated photo exhibit on Tokyo Street Style, or an exploration of women's gowns in the 18th century. You can search by designer, or by their muse — examining, say, Marilyn Monroe's love of Ferragamo stiletto heels, via the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence, Italy.

  • Russian nanotechnology official arrested for fraud

A top official for the Russian government's nanotechnology promotion arm has been detained on fraud charges.

The state Investigative Committee announced the arrest of Andrei Gorkov on Saturday. He is the managing director for investment of Rusnano, a state company that invests in nanotechnology projects. Rusnano has been touted by the government as important to making Russian industry more innovative.

The investigative committee said Gorkov placed Rusnano funds in a bank whose license was revoked in 2014 .The deposits were claimed to be used for settlements, but financed the bank's activities.

The committee estimated the loss to Rusnano at more than 700 million rubles ($12 million).

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