An agreement between Travis Kalanick, Uber’s former chief executive, and prominent Uber shareholder Benchmark cleared the way for an investment from Japan-based SoftBank for as much as $10 billion in the taxi-booking operator.
Uber confirmed a deal was reached, resolving a legal battle between Kalanick, who was forced to resign in June, and venture capital firm Benchmark that had been holding up an agreement, which was first announced by the board in September, Financial Times (FT) reported.
The newspaper noted a final deal is likely still weeks away as at least one important obstacle remains, since SoftBank hasn’t indicated how much it is prepared to pay in a tender offer to existing shareholders.
Kalanick and Benchmark, an early Uber investor with a board seat, disagreed over a number of technical points around SoftBank’s offer and Uber’s corporate governance. Benchmark agreed to suspend a lawsuit attempting to oust Kalanick from the board while talks are proceeding, and to withdraw the lawsuit if a deal is reached, FT said. Kalanick agreed to allow a majority of board members to vote on any future appointments he makes.
The investment arrangement is structured to help the troubled company improve its governance.
According to FT, the consortium will buy about $1 billion of new Uber shares at the same price investors paid last year and buy a second tranche at a lower price from existing shareholders through a tender process. SoftBank wants to buy at least 14 per cent of Uber’s shares in the tender offer and could walk away from the deal if the tender does not attract that level of interest.
Uber is valued at $68.5 billion, but stock offers will be based on a lower valuation, so it’s unknown how much a final deal will be worth.
The agreement is important for Uber because it will trigger reform, including moving to one vote per share and expanding the board to 17, FT said.
SoftBank is making the move as part of a joint venture with Dragoneer, a US-based investment company, a Uber representative said, who added “we believe this agreement is a strong vote of confidence in Uber’s long-term potential,” Reuters reported.