Uber upheaval continues with further board resignation

Bill Gurley of VC firm Benchmark was one of car sharing company’s earliest investors

The departure of one of Uber’s earliest investors from its board late on Wednesday added fresh turmoil to the San Francisco-based transportation company that also lost its controversial chief executive this week.

The exit of Bill Gurley, a partner at venture capital firm Benchmark, removes the board's most seasoned tech investor at a time when it is tasked with overhauling the company's culture and rebuilding Uber's executive ranks. Mr Gurley will be replaced by Matt Cohler, a fellow Benchmark partner.

Mr Gurley was instrumental in pushing for Travis Kalanick, Uber's chief executive, to step down following a series of crises at the company. Benchmark was one of five investors who delivered a surprise letter to Mr Kalanick on Tuesday asking for his resignation.

The resignation of Mr Kalanick later that day left Uber without a chief executive, chief operating officer, chief financial officer or head of engineering.


Uber's board is in flux during a critical time for the $62.5 billion (€56 billion) company. David Bonderman of TPG resigned from the board last week after making a sexist quip during a company presentation, and was replaced by his TPG colleague David Trujillo. A new board member, Wan Ling Martello of Nestlé, was appointed last week.

With the arrival of Mr Cohler, three of the eight voting board members are effectively new. Uber's other outside board members are Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, and Yasir Al Rumayyan of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.

Early insiders

Three early Uber insiders also sit on the board and together control most shareholder votes through their super-voting shares - Mr Kalanick, co-founder Garrett Camp, and senior vice-president Ryan Graves.

Mr Camp, who does not have an operational role at Uber, took to Twitter late on Wednesday to reassure the public that Uber was still going strong. “It’s much more stable than people think. We are still here; still running the company.”

However, the upheaval on the Uber board could make the task of rebuilding the company more difficult in the months ahead.

Mr Gurley, who is something of a legend in tech investing circles, became one of Uber’s earliest and most prominent investors when his firm Benchmark led an $11 million fundraising round in Uber in 2011.

He was closely involved with the company, particularly during the past several months as the crises started to shake Uber’s reputation as the most successful private company in Silicon Valley.

Recently Mr Gurley and Mr Bonderman started to feel that Mr Kalanick needed to step down and make room for a new chief executive, according to a source close to the board.

However, when Mr Kalanick did step down, the news was met with shock and anger from investors and employees.

“The board of Uber better know what they’re doing, because the success of the company from this point on is completely their responsibility,” said one frustrated investor, just a few hours before Mr Gurley resigned.

– (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017)