Uber board approves governance changes and to move forward with SoftBank sale

06 October, 2017, 00:36 | Author: Gladys Mathis
  • Jo Bertram said that she had decided it was time to move on “to something new and exciting”

Embattled taxi company Uber has agreed new reforms of corporate governance, clearing the way for investment from Japanese telecoms company SoftBank.

Adding a new twist to ongoing drama at Uber, a group of prominent investors in the ride-hailing startup is threatening to sue if a contentious board vote Tuesday doesn't go its way.

"SoftBank's interest is an incredible vote of confidence in Uber's business and long-term potential, and we look forward to finalising the investment in the coming weeks".

The company is seeking to shore up its reputation after a series of scandals and to move beyond a battle between Kalanick and Uber investors spearheaded by Silicon Valley's Benchmark Capital. The Japanese firm plans to invest as much as $1.25 billion at Uber's current valuation of almost $70 billion, and then buy up to an additional $10 billion worth of shares at a valuation of around $50 billion, Recode reported Tuesday.

Meanwhile, proposed governance changes include expanding the size of the board to 17 directors from 11.

The two new appointments came as a "complete surprise" to Uber and the board of directors, and were a "highly unusual" move, according to an internal letter from Khosrowshahi to employees obtained by Recode. The proposal would make it harder for Kalanick to return to the company's helm, impose a 2019 deadline for an Uber IPO, and make it harder for one person to take over the board, according to The New York Times. Uber's spokesperson said the talks went well and the company hoped it would lead to more discussions.

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For Kalanick, agreeing to drop his voting power could enable him to resolve his dispute with Benchmark.

Kabbee chief executive Justin Peters called for a limit on the proportion of minicab drivers overseen by one company if Uber does have its licence renewed. Kalanick had power over those two empty seats, and he appointed Xerox chairwoman Ursula Burns and former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain. In this setup, all shareholders will eventually have only a single vote per share, irrespective of the class of company stock they own.

Since then, Benchmark and Mr. Kalanick have warred over how much control of Uber he retains.

This move comes at a time when there is a rift in the board, especially with former CEO Travis Kalanick.

Uber's board of directors voted on Tuesday for new measures that will reshape the company's power structure, stripping early investors, including ex-Chief Executive Travis Kalanick, of some of their influence. Top Uber investors Steve Russell and Shervin Pishevar threatened a lawsuit following the decision, which would remove the tenfold voting power of their Class B common shares compared to regular Class A shares held by other investors.

That Khosrowshahi wasn't present in-person for Tuesday's board vote, speaks to the hectic week he's had as Uber's new leader.

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