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

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Uber co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick said he appointed two new directors to the board on Friday (29 September) in a surprise power move amid ongoing tension over his influence in the ride-hailing company.

Kalanick said late Friday that he had tapped ex-Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and ex-Merrill Lynch head John Thain to join Uber's board, Bloomberg reported.

The appointments of Burns and Thain fill two board seats controlled by Kalanick, which have sat vacant until now. Benchmark had previously contended that Mr. Kalanick had too much power over Uber and had sued him in an attempt to reduce that control.

Another proposal: If a former officer of the company was going to be appointed CEO, it would require a two-thirds vote from the board. 'It is therefore essential that the full board be in place for proper deliberation to occur, especially with such experienced board members as Ursula and John'. Mr. Kalanick's actions show that the fissures on the board have not healed since the new chief executive was named.

"That is precisely why we are working to put in place world-class governance to ensure that we are building a company every employee and shareholder can be proud of", the statement reads.

In July, Kalanick was forced out of the company over a number of controversies and mis-steps, including allegations of widespread sexual harassment against women throughout the company.

Mr Kalanick remains supportive of Mr Khosrowshahi, the person said. The former CEO saw the two appointments as a way to improve the company's board of directors ahead of the impending vote on Uber's governance structure, the person said.

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Neither Kalanick nor Benchmark responded to a request for comment.

Khosrowshahi, who was the CEO of Expedia, an online travel company, was made a decision to be the new CEO of Uber in a series of internal board meetings, reports The New York Times.

Yucaipa Companies managing partner Ron Burkle, an investor who has supported Kalanick, praised Burns and Thain as "smart, high-quality people".

Benchmark, a venture capital firm that took an early stake in Uber, filed a complaint against Kalanick in August. Yucaipa and other Uber investors defended Kalanick and asked Benchmark to divest its own shares and step down from the board.

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. Benchmark or other Uber investors could attempt to block the appointments by asking the DE judge to issue a so-called "status-quo order".

Kalanick's lawyer at the time told the court that Kalanick had not rushed to fill the seats.

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