Benchmark Capital, an early investor in Uber which maintains a seat on Uber's board of directors, is suing Travis Kalanick in an apparent bid to thwart his efforts to return to his role as CEO. That would mean that the three additional seats no longer exist, and it would strip Kalanick of his board seat "effective immediately". It's a surprising move by a venture capital firm, but it comes amid a constant stream of news about sexual harassment, gender discrimination, a lawsuit by Google Inc. self-driving vehicle unit Waymo Inc. charging that a former Google executive's self-driving truck startup Otto acquired by Uber involved stolen trade secrets, and other issues.
The suit revolves around a June 2016 decision by Kalanick to increase the size of the board by 3 seats, from 8 to 11. Tensions between Uber and Benchmark have remained high, which Axios says has contributed to the slow pace in finding a new CEO.
Kalanick resigned from the company in June after a revolt from investors following two separate investigations into allegations that Uber's leadership failed to address sexual harassment complaints filed by female employees.
Kalanick, who had a seat already as CEO, stepped into one of those vacant seats following his resignation. The company is looking for a new chief executive after Kalanick was pressured to step down, and Graves said that he preferred to make his own move before the new leader was chosen.
Benchmark accuses Kalanick of withholding material information about all of these episodes previous year during a vote on the board of directors.
- Kalanick owns 10 percent of Uber's stock, controls 16 percent of the voting power and has 35 percent of the class B stock.
Benchmark cited all three cases in its suit as examples of Kalanick's mismanagement.
Uber wrote in a statement that the lawsuit is "without merit and riddled with lies".
The pioneering company has been facing pressure to rein in a no-holds-barred management style led by Kalanick, 40, and to reform its work environment.