Travis Kalanick, CEO of the global ridesharing service Uber. (Pic: File, AFP)
Washington - Uber’s co-founder
Travis Kalanick fired back at investor Benchmark, saying its lawsuit
seeking to oust him from the ride-hailing company’s board is based on “a
fabrication” and accused the firm of threats and intimidation.
Upping the ante on his fight with the venture capital firm, which
holds a 13% stake in Uber, Kalanick said that Benchmark waged a
secret campaign to remove him from the company. The firm executed its
plan in June, “at the most shameful” of times, according to documents
made public on Friday in Delaware Chancery Court, immediately after his
mother died in late May.
The relationship between Kalanick and Benchmark, an early Uber
backer, has deteriorated in recent months. Benchmark
sued Kalanick on August 10 alleging he duped the firm into allowing him to
fill three board seats and sought to pack the panel with allies willing
to keep him as a director after he resigned as chief executive officer
READ: Uber CEO resigns from ride-sharing startup
Kalanick, Benchmark claimed, hid his “gross mismanagement” of
the company and cited a series of Uber scandals as evidence.
Uber’s founder was pressured to resign after a series of controversies erupted, including a lawsuit with
Alphabet’s self-driving car business, a probe by the US
Justice Department over the use of technology to deceive enforcement officials and claims its workplace is hostile to women.
Kalanick said in court papers that he resigned under duress after Benchmark threatened to launch a public campaign against him.
Less than two weeks after his mother’s funeral in June, Kalanick said
Benchmark principals came to his hotel room in Chicago and handed him a
draft resignation letter, telling him “he had hours to sign it.”
Kalanick demanded removal of a provision in the letter that suggested
the document was a “contractual undertaking,” according the filing.
“Ultimately, given his emotional state, Kalanick relented and signed the revised letter,” his lawyers said in court papers.
Kalanick described Benchmark’s claims of fraud as a “fabrication
articulated for the first time in its complaint.” The firm, he said, was
aware of all the events on which it based its fraud claim.
The former CEO previewed his defense against Benchmark’s allegations
in a filing requesting that the case be dismissed or stayed in favour of
arbitration. His lawyers
had said previously that Benchmark’s claims are subject to a mandatory
arbitration provision contained in the voting agreement that is the
focus of its lawsuit.
READ: Ex-Uber CEO says Benchmark suit should go to arbitration
Kalanick’s lawyers argued that when Benchmark originally threatened
to take legal action, they said it would come in “the form of an
arbitration demand,” according to court filings. “What changed in the
interim is a matter known only to Benchmark.”
In court papers, Kalanick’s lawyers described him as a good CEO whose
efforts made money for investors. His attempts to grow Uber into a
company worth more than $70bn “increased the value of Benchmark’s
$12m investment to more than $7bn,” according to the
Benchmark, based in Woodside, California, is seeking a “status quo”
order that would temporarily bar Kalanick from filling open Uber board
“Benchmark is not seeking to preserve the status quo,” Kalanick’s
lawyers said. “To the contrary, Benchmark ignores the arbitration
provision and seeks drastic relief that would silence and sideline
Kalanick - essentially the final relief it hopes to achieve.”
A court hearing hasn’t yet been scheduled in the case.
SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE UPDATE: Get Fin24's top morning business news and opinions in your inbox.
Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter: