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SoftBank's big Uber deal rests on governance

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Ever since news first leaked that SoftBank was in talks to acquire a stake in Uber, most of the coverage has revolved around numbers. For example, perhaps the deal would be mostly secondary at a $40 billion valuation with a $1 billion primary slug at $70 billion. Or maybe that secondary price is now up to $50 billion. The reality right now, however, is that dollar details are secondary to governance, per multiple sources familiar with the situation.

Leverage: While CEO candidate Meg Whitman tried using the hiring process as a forcing mechanism to change Uber's board composition and voting rights structure, new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is using the SoftBank deal. It may be a smart strategy, but it's no surer of a bet than was Whitman's gambit.

Key issue: A lot of this revolves around three board seats controlled by former CEO Travis Kalanick, which are the same three seats at the middle of an arbitration process between Kalanick and Uber's largest outside shareholder, Benchmark Capital.