Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is taking a leave of absence following the death of his mother, the company announced today.
“Recent events have brought home for me that people are more important than work, and that I need to take some time off of the day-to-day to grieve my mother, whom I buried on Friday, to reflect, to work on myself, and to focus on building out a world-class leadership team,” Kalanick said in a statement.
Travis Kalanick’s mother was Bonnie Horowitz Kalanick, and she died in a tragic boating accident in May. So who exactly was Bonnie Horowitz Kalanick, the mother of Uber’s CEO? Here’s what you need to know about her and the circumstances that lead up to her death last month.
1. She Worked in Advertising
Bonnie Kalanick worked in newspaper advertising sales. She spent some time at the Los Angeles Daily News, but in 2011, she began working at the Ventura County Star, according to her Facebook page.
Having had this experience means that Bonnie related to a lot of the rejection that her son Travis experienced in his 20s when he was struggling in his business ventures.
“Working for a newspaper, I was used to sales rejection all the time, so I knew what that was like,” Bonnie Kalanick said in an interview, according to Recode.
Bonnie also said that her son is tenacious and that she believes he got this from her. Her license plate read “AWS GON,” meaning “always going.”
In March 2012, Uber officially launched in Los Angeles, and Travis Kalanick’s parents were the first riders. About a month prior to the launch, Travis posted a photo on his Instagram account of his parents, writing “Secret @uber’s on the ground in L.A.!! My mom and dad are rider zero! #uberHomeComing.”
2. She Was Married to Donald Kalanick, an Engineer
Bonnie Kalanick was married to Donald Kalanick.
According to Fortune, Travis’ father made a career for himself working as an engineer and government employee. Recode reports, “From teaming over complex science projects like building a real electrical transformer to giving him his first experience programming computers, Don had been the one to bring home early computers for his tech-curious son to fiddle with.”
As part of The Huffington Post’s series Talk To Me, Travis Kalanick conducted an interview with his father, and in it, Don admits that he was concerned about Travis’ decision to drop out of school.
“We weren’t too happy when you decided to leave UCLA without getting a degree,” Don Kalanick said. “I respected you as a person and whatever decisions you made, I’d be behind them. I knew something was going to work out for you.”
3. Travis Moved Back in With His Parents at 27 When His Second Business Was Failing
Travis was raised by his parents in Northridge, California, and according to The New York Times, “His parents, Bonnie and Donald Kalanick, made sure he and his brother, Cory, were never left wanting.”
However, Travis fell on hard times at age 27 when his peer-to-peer startup company, Red Swoosh, was struggling. So Travis moved back in with his parents at his childhood home in Northridge.
Bonnie said in an interview with Vanity Fair (expanded sections of which were published on Recode) that she was glad to have him home.
“I was conflicted because I was happy he was home,” Bonnie Kalanick said. “He wore out a path walking in a circle of our kitchen and living room, always on the phone trying to make that company work.”
4. She Was Killed in a Boating Accident in May
In May 2017, Bonnie Kalanick was killed in a tragic boating accident.Bonnie died when a boat that she was riding with her husband hit a rock and sank in Pine Flat Lake.
According to a post on Travis’ Facebook page, during the ride, Bonnie and Don were switching off driving duties, but the family dog got in the way and the wheel turned sharply to the right.
“My Dad, seeing the boat heading straight for the rocks, swung the steering wheel back, but it was too late,” Travis wrote. “The boat hit the rocks. My seventy-eight year old Dad was thrown into a deep eddy, badly injured with five broken ribs, a broken vertebrae, a broken leg and a collapsed lung. My Mom, still in the boat, unconscious, had most likely died immediately from the impact.”
Travis goes on to say that his father immediately swam out to Bonnie as the boat sank.
“He wrapped her with the life jackets and cushions that were floating where the boat once was,” Travis wrote. “For almost two hours he tried swimming out of the cold current, holding her, eventually getting to the shore. Boats drove by but didn’t see them. Eventually a fisherman found them. My Dad had tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but she was gone.”
Travis said in early June that his father was doing much better.
5. She Was Proud of Her Son & Was Described as Being ‘Funny’ & ‘Delightful’
During an interview with Vanity Fair that was published on Recode, it’s clear that Bonnie was extremely proud of everything that her son accomplished.
“Most of all, she was also deeply proud of her son — she kept pulling out clips she had torn out of newspapers and magazines about him and showing them to me as only a loving mother would — as well as of her entire family,” the reporter who spoke with Bonnie for Vanity Fair wrote for Recode.
She also began to cry when recalling some of the challenges her son has faced, with the Recode article saying, “her eyes tear up at the thought of every past setback that her first-born son has suffered.”
On her Twitter account, Bonnie only tweeted a few times, but half of the tweets were about her son.
In a recent Facebook post, Travis said that the best way he can describe his mother is by saying that she was a lover.
“She wore her heart on her sleeves – yes, both of them – and when she walked into a room, her warmth, her smile and her joy would instantly fill it,” Travis wrote on Facebook. “They were infectious.
Travis went on to say that his mother constantly told him that life was about more than numbers and code.
“And now, as I miss her terribly and feel the hole that she left in my heart, I realize much more fully the gift she gave me, and commit to live it and express it in her honor,” he wrote.