Travis Kalanick, CEO of the global ridesharing service Uber. (Pic: File, AFP)
Manhattan - Ex-Uber CEO
Travis Kalanick said the lawsuit brought by venture-capital firm
Benchmark seeking his ouster from the company’s board should be heard in private arbitration.
In a letter Monday to a Delaware judge, an attorney for Kalanick said
Benchmark’s claims are subject to a mandatory arbitration provision
contained in the voting agreement that is the focus of the suit. Forcing
the suit into arbitration would likely keep details of the claims out
of the public spotlight and may also enable Kalanick to present evidence
that might otherwise be barred at a trial.
Benchmark last week sued the ride-hailing company’s co-founder in
state court in Delaware, saying he duped the firm into allowing him to
fill three board seats. The suit escalated a simmering feud between
Kalanick and Benchmark, one of Uber’s early investors which holds a 13% stake. Benchmark Partner
Bill Gurley led an effort to oust Kalanick as CEO in June.
READ: Kalanick isn’t following the Steve Jobs blueprint: Fully charged
Kalanick’s lawyer said in the letter that he plans to file documents
opposing Benchmark’s request to expedite its lawsuit and will also
submit a request to dismiss the case or stay it in favor of arbitration.
Kalanick criticised Benchmark in an emailed statement on Monday,
saying he was “disappointed and baffled by Benchmark’s hostile actions,
which clearly are not in the best interests of Uber and its employees on
whose behalf they claim to be acting.” He vowed to continue to work
“tirelessly” with the company’s board to identify and hire the next
Reema Bahnasy, a spokesperson for Benchmark with the Hatch Agency,
didn’t immediately return a call Monday about the arbitration request.
Matt Kallman, an Uber spokesperson, didn’t immediately return an email
Benchmark wrote a letter addressed to Uber’s employees on Monday,
explaining the venture capital firm’s decision to sue Kalanick. In the
letter, Benchmark said that Kalanick had failed to honor his agreement
to modify the company’s voting agreement giving the board more control
over the addition of new directors.
resigned in June after a series of controversies, including allegations
of sexual harassment by his employees and the use of software designed
to bypass regulators.
Benchmark told employees that a private report prepared by former
US Attorney General
Eric Holder for the company’s board of directors was damning, writing
that “hard-hitting would be an understatement.” The venture capital firm
also criticised Kalanick’s failure to appoint a chief financial
“Uber has operated without one for over two years now,” the firm
wrote. “This cannot be justified, given the scale and complexity of the
business, and is symptomatic of the broader problems with past
Benchmark has had to strike a tricky balance between putting pressure
on Kalanick, who has significant voting power at Uber, and maintaining
the firm’s reputation with startup founders with whom the firm might one
day want to invest.
Kalanick’s lawyers also object to Benchmark’s request for a so-called
“status quo” order that would temporarily bar the former CEO from
filling two open Uber board seats, saying it was “drastic and
Benchmark contends that allowing Kalanick “to fill the two seats and
act as the decisive board vote would seriously damage Uber and its
stockholders,” according to court filings.
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