Some members of Uber’s eight-person board were excited about the idea of Meg Whitman becoming the ride-hailing company’s next chief executive.
Ms. Whitman, the chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and a former leader of eBay, appeared to have many of the right traits for the job: experience, maturity, a level head — the kind of qualities that Travis Kalanick, the Uber co-founder who stepped down as chief executive last month, mostly lacked. She had even personally invested in the company in the past.
Over the past few weeks, Ms. Whitman met with several Uber board members individually, offering advice on how to address the company’s problems. The members were encouraged by the discussions, and some believed that she was a natural fit for the vacant chief executive role. And after weeks of searching for a top candidate, they were eager to try to win her over.
That group did not include Mr. Kalanick. He and several of his allies had a competing agenda that included their own preferred candidates for the top job and the possibility of returning Mr. Kalanick into an operational role, perhaps even as chief executive. His surrogates had also recently begun talks with the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank about an investment in Uber that could provide Mr. Kalanick a route to regaining power.
The jockeying between factions has put billions of dollars on the line, as the Uber board fights over control of the $70 billion ride-hailing giant. Interviews with more than a dozen people close to the process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions are confidential, indicate that board members’ relationships have been damaged by leaks, shifting wildly as alliances are forged and then broken.
The backbiting has taken a toll. After it was reported that she was a candidate for the chief executive job, Ms. Whitman said last Thursday that “Uber’s C.E.O. will not be Meg Whitman.” She made her announcement in a series of messages on Twitter just as the Uber board was holding a quarterly meeting, at which they had planned to call a vote on whether to appoint her to the job.
The internal divisions mean the search for a new leader may drag on. Even as board members speak with other candidates, including Jeffrey Immelt, who is departing as chief executive of General Electric, about the chief executive job, a lack of cohesion is apparent. Some board members are not convinced that Mr. Immelt is the right choice, given that G.E.’s stock price and profits have stagnated in recent years.
Four people are now on the shortlist to succeed Mr. Kalanick, according to one person close to the process. And at an internal meeting with Uber employees last week, Liane Hornsey, the company’s senior vice president and head of human resources, said a top candidate was expected to be chosen within the next six weeks.
Representatives for Uber, the company’s board of directors and Mr. Kalanick declined to comment, as did G.E.
“As Meg has made clear, she is fully committed to H.P.E.,” a spokesman for Hewlett Packard Enterprise said. “Our focus remains on driving the company forward and delivering for our customers, partners, employees and shareholders.”