Uber investor lawsuit accuses Kalanick of rigging board

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Uber Technologies Inc. faced a fresh round of turmoil Thursday, with its global operations chief resigning and a major investor suing the ride-hailing company's former CEO.

But while he is no longer chief executive, he remains on Uber's board and has the power to appoint three members.

The Uber saga continues, and the board of directors has weighed in on the brewing battle between early investor Benchmark and former CEO Travis Kalanick. As per a court document, Benchmark holds about 20% of the voting rights in Uber and 13% of its ordinary shares. It claims Kalanick is trying to pack Uber's board with his allies and eventually return to his post as CEO. "Benchmark's lawsuit is a transparent attempt to deprive Travis Kalanick of his rights as a founder and shareholder and to silence his voice regarding the management of the company he helped create".

A spokesperson for Kalanick said the lawsuit is "completely without merit and riddled with lies and false allegations".

Benchmark says Kalanick obtained control over multiple seats on the Uber board through "material misstatements and fraudulent concealment". Benchmark claimed in its suit that it would never have approved a 2016 expansion of Uber's board that allowed Kalanick to fill a board seat had it been aware of the controversy surrounding Kalanick and of Uber's cultural problems. Waymo sued Uber earlier this year.

The outcome of an emergency board meeting on Friday to address Uber's warring factions could not be determined at press time.

The mismanagement Benchmark cites in the case includes sexual discrimination claims brought against Uber earlier this year, as well as the acquisition of autonomous trucking company Otto, which has led to a trade secret case filed against it by Google-owned self-driving auto unit Waymo.

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Benchmark is asking the court to invalidate the agreement to increase the board by three seats and kick Kalanick off the board altogether. Two of those seats remain unfilled.

Benchmark was among the Uber investors that in June pressed Kalanick to step down after a string of setbacks. In fact, it was during such an investigation of harassment cases that Kalanick found himself stepping down as CEO. Planting his own men in the board is also seen as an attempt to prevent his own wrongdoings from getting scrutinized.

The letter's lead author Pishevar, a close friend of Kalanick, griped that Gurley filed the Thursday lawsuit "on a few hours' notice and within weeks of a personal tragedy, under threat of public scandal".

'Travis will continue to act in the interests of Uber and all of its stakeholders and is confident that these entirely baseless claims will be rejected, ' the statement said.

© 2017 Associated Press under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. Kalanick has been tied to these internal crises, with publications painting him as a "pugnacious" CEO with a relentless approach to dealing with business.

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