TPG Capital to lose sole female partner, Carrie Wheeler

  • Bonderman stepped down after remark to fellow Uber director Huffington
  • Next day, news broke that TPG retail investments leader Wheeler will depart
  • TPG to name successor to Bonderman on the board

With David Bonderman’s resignation from the board of Uber, TPG faces the challenge of replacing a founding partner in a supervisory role at a portfolio company in crisis.

Adding to the difficulty is the manner in which Bonderman went out, stepping down after making a sexist joke during a company meeting called to address sexual harassment.

When his fellow director, Arianna Huffington, said that adding one woman to a company’s board often leads to more women joining, Bonderman suggested that in fact it leads to “more talking.”

The following day, the New York Post reported that TPG Capital’s sole female partner, Carrie Wheeler, would leave the firm by year’s end. Wheeler has led the firm’s retail investments.

“Carrie Wheeler was an invaluable leader at TPG for over 21 years,” Co-CEOs Jim Coulter and Jon Winkelried said in a statement. “She led some of our best investments and is one of the most important consumer investors in all of private equity. We understand her decision to retire from TPG and truly appreciate everything she did to help build and shape the organization. We look forward to supporting her in her future endeavors.”

According to the Post’s reporting, Wheeler may have been forced out because of poor performing investments in J.Crew and Savers thrift stores. Both Wheeler and the firm denied that.

The most recent data from Preqin shows that women currently account for 10.6 percent of senior employees at private equity firms. While venture capital has seen the number of women at the top increase, to 12.1 percent in 2016 from 10.8 percent in 2015, buyout and growth firms both saw small declines in that period, to 7.3 percent from 7.5 percent and to 10.2 percent from 10.3 percent, respectively.

“The decreasing proportion of women at buyout and growth firms is cause for concern,” Preqin noted, “and the industry as a whole must continue to work to improve the representation of women at the highest level.”

TPG declined comment on its own efforts to hire, retain and promote women, or who might fill Bonderman’s Uber seat.

A review of the firm’s website turned up a handful of female executives, including Greta Guggenheim, CEO of TPG Real Estate Finance Trust; Joann Harris, chief compliance officer and chair of the firm’s allocation committee; Heather Preston, leader of TPG Biotech; and Jennifer Gordon, co-chief compliance officer and partner at TPG Sixth Street Partners.

Perhaps the most interesting figure with respect to the Uber vacancy is Maya Chorengel, senior partner at TPG Growth’s Rise Fund. Chorengel co-founded Elevar Equity, an impact venture firm, and was previously with Warburg Pincus.

Based in San Francisco, Chorengel has worked worldwide, including in Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, India and Great Britain, according to her bio. These experiences would seem to fit well with the ride-hailing company, which has been obsessed with global growth, notably in India.

Uber has been consumed by scandals concerning the treatment of women since February, when engineer Susan Fowler published an account of sexual harassment, threats of retaliation, and lax HR enforcement.

That led to the hiring of former Attorney General Eric Holder and his law firm, Covington & Burling, to conduct an investigation. Holder’s report was the subject of the meeting during which Bonderman made his ill-considered remark.

Meanwhile, the bad news keeps coming. A lawsuit was filed June 15 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in connection with the 2014 rape of a woman in India by her Uber driver.

An Uber executive obtained her medical records and shared them with colleagues, including CEO Travis Kalanick (who is now on leave). According to the complaint, the executives speculated that the victim “had made up the brutal rape in collusion with a rival of Uber in India in order to undermine Uber’s business.”

Action Item: Read Covington & Burling’s recommendations with respect to sexual harassment at Uber:

David Bonderman, founding partner at TPG, takes part in the “Private Equity: Rebalancing Risk” session during the 2014 Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on April 29, 2014.  Photo courtesy Reuters/Kevork Djansezian