Two months ago, when Uber was struggling to resolve one of the worst scandals to ever shake a Silicon Valley giant, it seemed as if the crisis had reached its climax. It might be a rough road to redemption, but at least Uber could turn its focus to cleaning up the mess.
Instead, Uber’s tale has soured into something more like a reality TV show, in which power plays and ego battles inside the board of directors — the very entity needed to stabilize the situation — have pushed the company back to the point of crisis.
Here’s what’s happened at Uber in the past week alone. Benchmark, an early Uber investor, sought to sell its stake to Softbank at a steep discount ($40 billion to $45 billion) from Uber’s $70 billion valuation. The Information reported this story, noting that the move inflamed already high tensions on the board. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son later said he’s “interested in discussing [an investment] with Uber,” or even with its rival Lyft.
The next day, another report said that Uber ex-CEO Travis Kalanick was seeking support from key employees to help him reassert control in a potential shareholder battle. On Monday, Google cofounder and board member Garrett Camp told employees, “Travis is not returning as CEO.” On Thursday, Ryan Graves, Uber’s first employee and a board member, left his job as a SVP but retained his board seat.
Also Thursday, Axios reported that Benchmark was suing Kalanick for fraud, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty, alleging that Kalanick had abused, through “material misstatements and fraudulent concealment” of information, a 2016 board decision that let him appoint three new board members. The lawsuit is seeking to remove Kalanick from Uber’s board. On Friday, another shareholder group struck back, demanding Benchmark divest some of its assets.
And that’s just one week. Previously, Uber’s board tensions simmered at a slow boil as different parties leaked out tidbits to the…