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Travis Kalanick blasted Benchmark for ambushing him with a lawsuit

Kalanick accused Benchmark of taking advantage of him when he was mourning his mother’s death.

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick holding a microphone and doing an onstage presentation VCG

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is not taking Benchmark’s “public” and “personal attack” lying down. In a court filing, Kalanick is again seeking to move Benchmark’s lawsuit to arbitration, which is usually binding.

Kalanick calls Benchmark’s claims — that he defrauded the firm into signing amendments to the board’s voting agreements — fabrications. He further accuses the firm of ambushing him with pressure to resign while he was grieving the death of his mother.

In case you missed it, Benchmark — a major investor in Uber with a representative on its board — filed a lawsuit against Kalanick for fraud and breach of contract. The firm takes particular issue with a new voting agreement they claim they were “fraudulently induced” to sign, giving Kalanick the right to appoint new board directors.

Benchmark says if Kalanick had disclosed a few critical things — including information that related to Uber’s current legal battle with Alphabet — the firm would not have signed that agreement in the first place.

Kalanick, however, says Benchmark had 14 months to voice its concerns over that agreement and the first mention of the claims that they were defrauded into singing those voting agreements was in the lawsuit Benchmark filed.

“Benchmark never suggested that the amendments were ‘fraudulently induced’ or in any way unenforceable, although all of the events on which it bases its claim of fraud were well known to Benchmark,” Kalanick’s filing read. “Its position was explicitly to the contrary.”

That argument serves to oppose Benchmark’s motion for injunction against Kalanick’s right to appoint new board members. For a court to grant an injunction — an order that prohibits someone from doing a specific action — there has to be imminent, irreparable harm.

If Benchmark had no problem with the voting agreement for 14 months, as Kalanick alleges, then that could help Kalanick’s argument against the need for an injunction.

Kalanick says that Benchmark partner Bill Gurley — then an Uber board member — expressed his support for Kalanick through May 2017. The CEO, already facing a myriad of public scandals and executive departures, then on May 27 suffered the tragic death of his mother.

But the following month, Benchmark principals Peter Fenton and Matt Cohler visited Kalanick at his Chicago hotel and demanded that he resign as CEO, according to Kalanick.

“They threatened to launch a public campaign against him if he refused,” the filing reads.

Kalanick ultimately signed the resignation letter Benchmark gave him, but says he did so because he was in an “emotional state.”

That wasn’t the end of Benchmark’s attempt to “strip” him of his rights and power, according to Kalanick. Benchmark later suggested a new draft agreement that would require any board appointments by Kalanick to be near unanimous by the current board.

“Kalanick, now cognizant of Benchmark’s plan to steal away his valuable voting rights, rejected Benchmark’s proposed amendment,” the filing reads.

A few weeks later, Benchmark filed its lawsuit against Uber — a lawsuit Kalanick says defies common sense.

For good measure, Kalanick threw in an “everyone else on the board agrees with me,” dig at Benchmark.

“The board met on August 11 and the six members not involved in the litigation unanimously issued a statement that the board was ‘disappointed’ in Benchmark’s lawsuit and confirming that it was destructive to the company. Thus, contrary to Benchmark’s suggestion that its lawsuit is ‘in the best interests of Uber,’ every other member of the board disagrees.”

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