Wednesday, 18 October, 2017

Uber Board Meets for a Vote on Major Governance Reforms

The Associated Press The Associated Press
Heather Davidson | 06 October, 2017, 00:36

Uber Technologies Inc's [UBER.UL] fractured board declared peace on Tuesday, attempting to put months of strife behind it by unanimously passing a series of measures to shore up corporate governance, bring in major investor SoftBank and diminish the power of former Chief Executive Travis Kalanick. Kalanick, the controversial former chief executive officer, and venture capital firm Benchmark, the largest shareholder, were among those with outsize voting power before the latest changes. The same brashness that convinced hundreds of municipal governments to accept Uber as an alternative to taxis also led the company to face a lawsuit over alleged IP theft, a criminal probe over alleged privacy violations, and a public backlash for a culture that reportedly enabled sexual harassment.

The board set up incentives which will likely prompt Uber, the world's most valuable startup at an estimated $69 billion, to conduct an initial public offering by fall 2019. Shareholders will now have one vote per share, ending a class of supervoting shares in a move that substantially decreases the power of Kalanick and some other early investors. United Kingdom judges are also deciding whether Uber needs to classify drivers as workers entitled to more benefits, a potentially significant shift for Uber's business.

Early Uber investors Shervin Pishevar and Steve Russell said in a statement after Tuesday's vote that they would sue to block the change, which cuts the super-voting rights that give them 10 votes per share.

He called into the meeting, having spent the day in London, where he met with the city's transport commissioner, who revoked the company's taxi license last month. "Further steps in this process will take place over the coming weeks", a spokesperson said.

Uber has disputed the regulator's specific findings, but acknowledged it pushed the limits with its business practices. Again, he appointed Burns and Thain as new board directors in an attempt to have more advantage in the board.

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 moves are expected to end a legal fight between Kalanick and Benchmark.

Khosrowshahi wants the current 11-person board to cast a single vote that encompasses the deal and the revisions to corporate governance.

In a statement emailed to The Mercury News organization by his spokesman, Kalanick wrote it was important to appoint the new board members when he did. Those directors still must be approved by a majority of the full board or a majority of shareholders.

But the board didn't approve all proposed terms - for instance, changes that would have prevented Kalanick from regaining the CEO seat were dropped from the proposal before the meeting.

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