Has Uber Investor Benchmark Smeared Kalanick’s Reputation?

In a new court filing, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has called a lawsuit brought from a top Uber investor a “public and personal attack.” Fighting back against the venture capital firm Benchmark, on Thusday night, Kalanick accused the executives at the firm of threatening him, earlier this year, with a new smear campaign to the effect of forcing his resignation.

Now, Benchmark sued Kalanick for fraud in the Chancery Court of Delaware last week, alluding that he had played the balance of Uber’s executive board so that he could lay a new foundation for his eventual return to the company.

This, however, is not the picture that Kalanick painted in his court filing. In his version of the story, the venture capital firm had pushed for his resignation after several controversies and scandals that befell the company while under his reign. At the same time, Benchmark’s representatives had acknowledged that he would have the opportunity to stay on the board as well as have control over at least three more seats. Kalanick responded by accusing Benchmark partners Matt Cohler and Peter Fenton of orchestrating what he called an “ambush” while he was away and dealing with a personal tragedy.

You may not know that Kalanick’s mother was killed, and his father seriously injured, in a boating accident outside Fresno, CA on May 27. Kalanick took a two-week leave of absence, and it is during this time in which Kalanick says that Fenton and Cohler both visited him, in Chicago, urging him to resign from CEO permanently.

In the filing, he alleges, “The Benchmark principals also handed Kalanick a draft resignation letter and told him he had hours to sign it, or else Benchmark would start a public campaign against him.”

In response to the Benchmark suit, however, Uber investor Shervin Pishevar wrote them a letter to argue that the present litigation is doing more bad than good. While not a member of the Uber board of directors, Pishevar urges in his letter, “Benchmark is holding the company hostage and not allowing it to move forward in its critical executive search. The claim in your letter that your litigation efforts speed up on-boarding a CEO [is] disingenuous or delusional.” He also asked for Benchmark to resign from the board (though the company has not demonstrated any desire or momentum to do so).

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