According to sources, when Arianna Huffington met Travis Kalanick, who personally invited her to join Uber's board, she cooked him an omelette, which was sneered at by her critics inside Uber, who saw the gesture as a reinforcement of sexist stereotypes.
However, the story also highlights the strong bond which developed between Huffington and Kalanick. Their friendship has been pivotal in how events at Uber played out in last few weeks, after an inquiry into the extensive sexual harassment claims which triggered dozens of firings, a board shake-up and Kalanick's consequent departure from the company.
According to an article in the Financial Times, Kalanick called Huffington for advice, upon being ambushed by investors with news of his potential resignation. Huffington told the Financial times that she felt that neither Kalanick nor Uber should go through a protracted public fight, but that it was entirely his decision.
One shareholder said that had Kalanick fought the investors, a civil war would have ensued, and Huffington helped prevent that.
As a result, Huffington has come out as the public face of Uber during this difficult time for the company, and with her self-marketing skills, she is well suited for the task of selling Uber's new image of a company looking to change its ways.
Huffington’s slant relies in part on her own brand, which she has carefully curated and reinvented over the years. Initially entering U.S. public life as a conservative commentator, and eventually distancing herself from the political right, with a stint in running for governor of California as an independent and eventually embracing a more liberal point of view.
She co-founded the Huffington Post, in 2005 as a liberal counterpart to the right's Drudge Report, and provided a platform for her free-ranging interests and global aspirations, becoming at its peak one of the web’s most-read news and entertainment sites.
Huffington was the first independent director appointed to Uber’s board — something which was not well received at the Huffington Post, where she still held the editor-in-chief position. When she came onboard, the remaining members were either shareholders or early employees, and they were all men. Since then, the board has gained a second independent director and a second woman. Uber's plans are to add two more independent directors, as recommended in a report by Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney-general, about the company’s culture, management and governance.