Former Uber chief names 2 directors, surprises board

89th Academy Awards- Oscars Vanity Fair Party

89th Academy Awards- Oscars Vanity Fair Party

Uber Technologies Inc co-founder Travis Kalanick said he had appointed two new directors, a surprise move that publicly reignited a board battle over the role of the ousted former chief executive.

Kalanick, still one of the largest shareholders, said in a statement he had appointed former Xerox Chief Executive Ursula Burns and former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive John Thain as directors. CEO Ursula Burns and former CIT Group Inc.

Uber is reportedly in negotiations for a massive $10 billion invesment deal with Japan's Softbank, and Benchmark Capital, one of Uber's largest investors that helped pushed Kalanick out, has sought to structure the deal in a way that ensure the former CEO can not return to power.

The appointments of Burns and Thain fill two board seats controlled by Kalanick, which have sat vacant until now.

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"I am appointing these seats now in light of a recent board proposal to dramatically restructure the board and significantly alter the company's voting rights", Kalanick said to Bloomberg.

Kalanick's announcement, late on Friday, that he was filling the two seats appears to be a direct challenge to Benchmark, which has sued Kalanick for fraud and is attempting to wrest the board seats from his control.

Tensions appeared to subside in August with the appointment of Dara Khosrowshahi, former boss of the global travel giant Expedia, as the new Uber head. That could minimize some of the control Kalanick and Benchmark, as early investors, still hold over the company.

Kalanick, who was pressured to resign in June as head of Uber which dominates the market for smartphone on-demand auto rides, retains sizeable voting rights in the privately-held company that he co-founded. Benchmark alleges that Kalanick promised to relinquishh those seats to independent directors after he resigned in June, but never followed through. Also part of the changes would be altering the voting power of Kalanick's and Benchmark's "super-voting" stock, making it all "one share, one vote", and Khosrowshahi would be given nomination control of the three Class B board seats that are now filled by Ryan Graves, Arianna Huffington and Wan Ling Martello, with approval required by the full board.

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In July, Kalanick was forced out of the company over a number of controversies and mis-steps, including allegations of widespread sexual harassment against women throughout the company. And if by the deadline the board has not approved an initial public offering - but at least one-third of the board wants to move forward with an IPO - the approving board members can appoint new board members until they reach a majority.

Kalanick's move came ahead of a board vote set for next week on a proposal to reduce Kalanick's voting power in the company.

The move is being seen as indicative of the continuing power struggle which saw Mr Kalanick step down as the firm's CEO in June.

He also voiced his support for Khosrowshahi, saying he's "confident Dara will find a way forward".

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