Travis Kalanick, the Uber co-founder who lost his CEO throne in June but remains on its board of directors, saw his grip on the direction of the company bludgeoned today following a vote to eliminate the special voting powers of stock owned by early shareholders.
Fulfilling some earlier rumours, the Uber board voted to strip certain shareholders, including Kalanick and early Uber investor Benchmark, of the enhanced voting rights baked into the two types of company stock — preferred and class B shares, the New York Times reports. The move ensures "equality among shareholders," Uber said in a statement following the meeting, but the board hasn't exactly kicked Kalanick to the curb. Kalanick still appears to control three board seats, and new barriers were reportedly not introduced to block the cofounder from one day returning as CEO.
The vote comes after Kalanick went ahead and appointed two new board members — filling every seat on the then-11 member board — without consulting the new CEO. Khosrowshahi responded with an internal memo to staff, obtained by Recode, which included the following press statement:
The appointments of Ms. Burns and Mr. Thain to Uber's Board of Directors came as a complete surprise to Uber and its Board. That is precisely why we are working to put in place world-class governance to ensure that we are building a company every employee and shareholder can be proud of.
Travis Kalanick's unwillingness to give up his power at Uber has been hopelessly transparent. The former CEO stood by his successor's side at the passing of the torch, offering up his service to Dara Khosrowshahi at the meeting, while actively challenging an ongoing lawsuit with Benchmark Capital as the investment firm tries to diminish his leverage on the company.
While Uber's board was able to reach an agreement today, enabling it to move forward with a key SoftBank investment, the chaos surrounding the company is far from finished. Following the meeting, early Uber investors Shervin Pishevar and Steve Russell called the board vote "unfair and illegal", and pledged to "[move] forward with a class action lawsuit" over vote to reclassify stock. At Uber, drama still reigns supreme.