Uber Technologies Inc. is close to naming Burke Norton, chief legal officer and chief of corporate and government affairs at cloud computing company Salesforce.com Inc., as its next legal department leader, according to travel industry site Skift.
Skift originally reported that Norton was likely to take on the general counsel role, but later updated its article to note that his “exact title is fluid.” Notably, Salesforce’s leadership webpage no longer lists Norton, though an archived version of the same page included him as recently as July.
While Recode has reported that several sources have said it was not accurate that Norton is poised to become Uber’s GC, Norton would not be a shocking choice, as his time at Expedia overlapped with new Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s tenure at the tech-based travel company. When Khosrowshahi emerged as the leading candidate for Uber’s open CEO spot, in fact, Norton commented to Recode that “Dara is the smartest, most passionate and thoughtful executive I’ve worked with in 25 years,” adding that he’s “the kind of leader whom people would follow into a burning building.”
Given the numerous troubles still facing Uber, if the Skift report is correct, following Khosrowshahi into a challenging situation might be exactly what Norton is planning to do.
Uber has been in need of a general counsel since May when Salle Yoo was promoted to chief legal officer. At the time, Uber’s then-CEO Travis Kalanick said a new general counsel would be responsible for the “day-to-day direction and operation of the legal and regulatory teams.” Yoo announced recently via an email to her legal team that she plans to leave the company at some point in the future, though it’s not yet known if the company plans to keep a bifurcated legal department, with both a CLO and a GC, or design the roles differently.
If Norton joins Uber, he could take over as CLO. Recode wrote that Norton has discussed with Khosrowshahi the possibility of joining the ride-hailing titan in some capacity, though this would reportedly be a position that is “much more expansive and one with purview over a general counsel and also other parts of the company.”
Neither Norton nor Uber responded to messages from Corporate Counsel seeking comment about the potential hire. A Salesforce representative said the company does not “comment on rumors.”
Norton joined Salesforce in October 2011 as executive vice president and chief legal officer, handling responsibilities ranging from corporate and securities law to litigation, intellectual property, regulatory affairs and corporate governance matters. He also had a hand in Salesforce’s many mergers and acquisitions over the years. M&A is thought to be a possible focus for Uber in the future.
In a May 2015 post on online publishing site Medium, Norton pointed out the efforts taken by Salesforce to support diversity and inclusion for employees, which will be important values for Uber if the company truly aims to improve its much-criticized workplace culture. Salesforce joined amicus briefs filed in the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California Proposition 8, Norton pointed out in the post.
As the company’s top lawyer, Norton also came out in strong opposition of Microsoft Corp.’s acquisition of LinkedIn Corp., which closed at the end of last year. In another Medium post in October 2016, Norton noted that were Microsoft to become the “exclusive owner” of LinkedIn’s dataset, which at the time included 450 million profiles worldwide, the Redmond, Washington-based company would have the “ability and incentive to use LinkedIn’s one-of-a-kind dataset to enhance its own products, while preventing competitors from accessing and effectively utilizing that same data.”
Though Salesforce engaged in talks with LinkedIn about an acquisition, Norton added that the data would have been “licensed to others” had that come to be, but “chances of Microsoft doing the same without government intervention” were slim, he said.
Before Salesforce, Norton served as executive vice president, general counsel and a member of the office of the chairman at Expedia, where he was responsible for all legal and corporate affairs, compliance, litigation, government relations and IP matters. While at Expedia, Norton dealt with a variety of legal threats, including a number of lawsuits from states, cities and counties related to Expedia’s alleged failure to pay hotel occupancy taxes, as well as consumer class action litigation claiming Expedia and others improperly charged and/or failed to pay hotel occupancy taxes and engaged in other deceptive practices.
Contact Jennifer Williams-Alvarez at firstname.lastname@example.org.