Ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who once boasted about never selling a share of the company he helped found, is divesting himself of a big chunk of Uber stock, according to Bloomberg and Reuters. A week after Softbank acquired one-fifth of Uber, Kalanick is selling around 29 percent of his shares to the Japanese tech giant and its partners who have agreed to buy equity in the company.
It’s a bit of a silver lining after a year of rolling disasters for Kalanick, who was ousted as CEO of the law-skirting transportation company last June. For years, Kalanick was one of the wealthiest people in the world, but only on paper, as Uber’s valuation soared to absurd heights. But the deal with Softbank drops Uber’s value by about 30 percent from around $70 billion to $48 billion — a reflection of the trouble that the ride-hail company has experienced across 2017. Kalanick, who remained on the board despite resigning as CEO, is likely to rake in $1.4 billion from his transaction with Softbank, making him an actual billionaire for the first time.
“This seems a sign that Travis may have had enough of being criticized about Uber, so maybe he is ready to move on,” said Carl Tobias, chair in law at the University of Richmond School of Law, “or at least have a reduced role in Uber’s operations and let others try to clean up the messes that Uber confronts.” Spokespersons for Uber and Kalanick did not respond to requests for comment.
The sale of his shares also signals a quasi-ending to the Kalanick era of Uber, even as the company continues to grapple with the legal mess he left in his wake. Uber is currently under at least five separate criminal investigations related to various unlawful actions that occurred under Kalanick’s watch. And the trial over Alphabet’s lawsuit alleging stolen trade secrets is set to begin at the end of January, which could bring out more embarrassing secrets about the company and result in billions in penalties.
Of course, these fights, and the others that will come, will be for Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to deal with, not Kalanick.