TPG Capital co-founder David Bonderman has resigned from the board of Uber Technologies Inc. after uttering a sexist comment during a meeting intended to address rampant internal gender bias.
The billionaire co-founder of the private equity firm apologized for cracking a joke during a charged company-wide meeting to discuss sweeping changes meant to curb discrimination and other cultural problems. Bonderman cut in when fellow board member Arianna Huffington was speaking about how the presence of a woman on the board was likely to attract other females.
“There’s a lot of data that shows when there’s one woman on the board, it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on the board,” Huffington said, according to a person who heard the exchange but was not authorized to discuss it.
“Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking,” Bonderman said. Among the Uber employees in the room, there were audible gasps and blank stares, according to another person at the meeting.
Uber and TPG confirmed the resignation of Bonderman, 74, who founded TPG in 1992 with Jim Coulter and has served as its chairman since 2014. He’s also on the board of real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield Inc., Kite Pharma Inc., Ryanair Holdings Plc and almost 20 other companies.
The billionaire couldn’t have picked a worse setting to interrupt a woman with a comment about how women talk. He, Huffington and other executives were addressing employees to assure them that Uber would be implementing a litany of recommendations from an independent investigation led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The entire process was sparked by a February blog post from former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, who detailed allegations of sexism and sexual harassment at the company. Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick said Tuesday he will take a leave of absence. And former senior vice president for business Emil Michael was ousted.
“Today at Uber’s all-hands meeting, I directed a comment to my colleague and friend Arianna Huffington that was careless, inappropriate, and inexcusable,” Bonderman wrote in an emailed statement. “The comment came across in a way that was the opposite of what I intended, but I understand the destructive effect it had, and I take full responsibility for that.”
After the meeting, Bonderman apologized personally to Huffington, according to a person familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak about it. The Huffington Post founder said in a statement later that her fellow director was “doing the right thing.”
“I do not want my comments to create distraction as Uber works to build a culture of which we can be proud,” Bonderman said in his statement. “Uber is examining the issues with its culture, and making significant changes and working to right what has been done wrong, which is extremely important for the future of the company.”