Early Uber investor slaps founder Travis Kalanick with lawsuit


Uber’s embattled founder and chief executive, Travis Kalanick, might have
stepped down—but the company’s problems are far from gone.

One of the ride-sharing company’s early and largest investors, Benchmark
Capital, is suing Kalanick for fraud, saying that the former chief
executive attempted to “increase his power over Uber for his own selfish
ends.”

The lawsuit, which was filed this week in Delaware, aims to oust Kalanick
from Uber’s board of directors and restrict him on making business
decisions. The lawsuit accuses Kalanick of “fraud, breaches of fiduciary
duty, and breaches of contractual obligations.”

Kalanick responded through an attorney, who called the suit, “completely
without merit and riddled with lies and false allegations.”

The lawsuit comes just days after reports that Kalanick told people he’s
“Steve Jobs-ing it”—meaning Kalanick would return to Uber in a similar
fashion to Jobs, who returned to Apple as its chief executive in 1997.

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Bloomberg
reported
 that Benchmark’s lawsuit is “likely to paralyze the company.”

Meanwhile, Uber’s senior vice president, Ryan Graves, is stepping away from
his executive position to focus solely on his role as Uber’s board director
and “the selection of our new CEO.”

Speaking of the search for a new chief executive, how is Uber faring?

The Washington Post
summed it up with its headline, “Uber’s search for a female CEO has been narrowed down to 3 men.” The Post reported that it’s likely not for lack of
trying, stating, “a number of A-list female executives have made it clear
they are not interested in the role.”

Still, for a company whose founder and chief executive was forced to resign
in the midst of rampant claims of sexual harassment throughout the company,
the company’s search for a new chief is not making it look good—and if
these issues paint a picture of disarray within the company, perception
might be reality.

Uber’s head of HR has indicated that a new chief executive will probably be
chosen by mid-September.

Benchmark has asked for a temporary injunction to remove Kalanick from the
board while the case is being settled. Investors and PR pros should watch
for how that move affects Uber’s chief-executive search—as it might further
dissuade otherwise ideal candidates.

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