Tuesday, 23 January, 2018

Uber's ex-CEO surprisingly appoints two new board members

Mr. Kalanick as the chief executive last month. Credit Paul Sakuma  Associated Press Mr. Kalanick as the chief executive last month. Credit Paul Sakuma Associated Press
Terence Owen | 01 October, 2017, 00:52

Former Uber Technologies Inc chief executive officer Travis Kalanick named two new directors without consulting its new leader or other existing board members, ratcheting up a Machiavellian battle for control of the world's most valuable startup.

He brought in Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox, and John Thain, the former CEO of Merrill Lynch, to sit at Uber's big table.

"I am appointing these seats now in light of a recent Board proposal to dramatically restructure the Board and significantly alter the company's voting rights", Kalanick writes.

"I am confident that, with their additions and Dara's appointment, Uber will be well situated to focus on the future and continue to revolutionize how cities move", an official statement said, reports TechCrunch.

Khosrowshahi's plan calls for transferring one of the two Kalanick-controlled positions to SoftBank Group Corp, which is considering an investment in Uber, the source said.

Uber hired Dara Khosrowshahi, the former CEO of Expedia, to replace Kalanick in August as the ride-hailing company tries to move past months of scandals and controversies that have caused an exodus of talent and, by some accounts, put a dent in its $69 billion private market valuation.

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Signatories calling for the hardline stance include former Brexit minister David Jones, and the issue is set to feature heavily at the Tory conference.

The company had reportedly faced a string of revolts from the shareholders, few of which demanded Kalanick's resignation. "That is precisely why we are working to put in place world-class governance to ensure we are building a company every employee and shareholder can be proud of".

Uber expressed concern at Kalanick's announcement.

Yucaipa Companies managing partner Ron Burkle, an investor who has supported Kalanick, praised Burns and Thain as "smart, high-quality people". Kalanick himself is facing a lawsuit from Uber investor Benchmark Capital. Also part of the changes would be altering the voting power of Kalanick's and Benchmark's "super-voting" stock, making it all "one share, one vote", and Khosrowshahi would be given nomination control of the three Class B board seats that are now filled by Ryan Graves, Arianna Huffington and Wan Ling Martello, with approval required by the full board.

Mr Kalanick resigned as CEO on June 20 after Benchmark and a group of early investors asked him to step down.

The case was later moved to arbitration by a DE judge, allowing Kalanick to keep the dispute with Benchmark and any other potentially damaging disclosures out of public view.

Kalanick's action on Friday could be subject to a new legal challenge. Those two seats are at issue in Benchmark's lawsuit, presumably for this exact reason. The New York Times also quoted Kalanick's lawyer as telling the court Kalanick had the power to fill the seats under the pre-arbitration "status quo".

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