- Dan Primack
- Aug 10
Scoop: Benchmark Capital sues Travis Kalanick for fraud
Lazaro Gamio / Axios
The battle between Benchmark Capital and Travis Kalanick just went nuclear, with the venture capital firm suing the former Uber CEO for fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. The complaint was filed earlier today in Delaware Chancery Court.
Key graph, per the suit: "Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber, to entrench himself on Uber's Board of Directors and increase his power over Uber for his own selfish ends. Kalanick's overarching objective is to pack Uber's Board with loyal allies in an effort to insulate his prior conduct from scrutiny and clear the path for his eventual return as CEO—all to the detriment of Uber's stockholders, employees, driver-partners, and customers."
Why it matters: If Benchmark's suit is successful, Kalanick would be kicked off Uber's board of directors -- thus eliminating any faint hopes of him returning to the company in a substantial role.
What to know: Benchmark was an early investor in Uber, and has a seat on its board of directors. It also helped spearhead the move to have Kalanick resign in June, and tensions between the two have contributed, in part, to the slow pace of finding a replacement. Oh, and venture capital firms don't usually sue fellow board members of their single most valuable investment.
Moreover, Benchmark alleges that Kalanick pledged in writing -- as part of his resignation agreement -- that the two empty board seats would be independent and subject to approval by the entire board (something Benchmark says was the reason it didn't sue for fraud at the time). But, according to the complaint, Kalanick has not been willing to codify those changes via an amended voting agreement.
What Benchmark wants: An invalidation of the June 2016 stockholder vote and related actions, which would effectively eliminate the three board seats. And, in so doing, remove Kalanick from Uber's board of directors. It also is asking the court for a preliminary injunction against Kalanick's ongoing involvement in Uber board matters which, if granted, would remove him from the CEO search process.
Stakes: Per the complaint, Kalanick currently holds around a 10% equity stake in Uber, which most recently was valued at around $70 billion. Benchmark holds approximately 13 percent.
Comment from Kalanick spox: "The lawsuit is completely without merit and riddled with lies and false allegations. This is continued evidence of Benchmark acting in its own best interests contrary to the interests of Uber, its employees and its other shareholders. 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. 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."
More: Axios was unable to reach Benchmark (Update: It declined comment). Uber, which is named as a "nominal defendant" (which is just a statutory requirement, it isn't an actual defendant in the case) declined comment. It also is worth noting that, earlier today, Uber's first employee and original CEO, Ryan Graves, said he would step down as VP of operation but maintain his board seat.
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