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Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick appointed two new board members to the board of the car-hailing company, claiming that he had the right to do so. The surprise move, done late on Friday afternoon, is a massive escalation of tension at Uber, which had started to ease with the appointment of new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.
But it is classic Kalanick, who said in a statement that he was appointing former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain to fill seats that he was given control of previously.
His ability to do that has been challenged by Benchmark, the venture firm embroiled in an ugly lawsuit with Kalanick. In addition, sources said Kalanick had previously said he would not make such a move without consulting the board.
He did not, said sources close to the other directors, who received no warning that this was happening. Most of them had previously opposed such an action by Kalanick.
Kalanick, known for his aggressive personality, seems not to care.
“I am appointing these seats now in light of a recent Board proposal to dramatically restructure the Board and significantly alter the company’s voting rights,” he said in a statement. “It is therefore essential that the full Board be in place for proper deliberation to occur, especially with such experienced board members as Ursula and John.”
It was not immediately clear to what proposal Kalanick was referring. Benchmark and Kalanick are currently embroiled in a debate over a proposed investment by the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank in the company, one that could require a change in governance.
Appointing such well-regarded executives is a clever move by Kalanick, as it will be hard for the other directors to argue against adding them, despite the pugnacious manner in which Kalanick is operating.
Benchmark, after helping remove Kalanick from the CEO role, sued him this summer as part of an effort to remove him from power. The case, which is in arbitration, also asked Kalanick to be forbidden from filling the seats.
Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy weekend.