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Board drama could jeopardize a 'major' investment round for Uber, shareholder says

  • Uber now officially has a new CEO. But that doesn't mean the drama is over for former boss Travis Kalanick.
  • Some shareholders and board members are still fighting over the role of board member Kalanick in a nasty lawsuit.
  • That suit could stymie a "major" investment round for Uber, Shervin Pishevar told CNBC.

Uber now officially has a new CEO. But that doesn't mean the drama is over for former boss Travis Kalanick.

Some shareholders and board members are still fighting over the role of board member Kalanick in a nasty lawsuit. That suit could stymie a "major" investment round for Uber, an early personal investor in Uber told CNBC.

"Benchmark needs to drop their lawsuit," Shervin Pishevar told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" on Wednesday.

"Filing a lawsuit in the middle of a CEO search, in the middle of a major strategic investment round, is not prudent. That's not the way they should have acted."

Venture capitalists at Benchmark — which has significant voting power at Uber — argue Kalanick has failed to support Uber's path toward new executive leadership. But other shareholders — including Shervin Pishevar — say Benchmark is obstructing Uber's turnaround.

Hyperloop One co-founder Shervin Pishevar.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Hyperloop One co-founder Shervin Pishevar.

The hearing between Benchmark, Kalanick and other shareholders on Wednesday is the latest twist in Uber's internal drama, as the company adjusts to a new leader after a damaging workplace culture investigation fraught with leaks and infighting.

It's unclear what investment round Pishevar is referring to, although reports have indicated that companies like SoftBank might be eyeing a stake. CNBC has reached out to Uber for more information.

"I was on the board as an observer for about four years," Pishevar said. "My role is really just to try to make sure that the voice of all shareholders and employees is heard — that no one is bullying their agenda, their choice of a CEO, or their selection of who should be the board members," he said. "Benchmark, I believe, has been pushing their agenda at the expense of those stakeholders. So it's important to be in the court."

It's a battle of big personalities.

Shervin Pishevar is the managing director of Sherpa Capital and a co-founder of Hyperloop One, another transformation technology company. Pishevar is also no stranger to the spotlight, after his involvement in an explosive lawsuit at Hyperloop One. (That suit was settled).

Benchmark partner Bill Gurley is outspoken, and has called for more investment discipline in Silicon Valley.

While there was certainly a reason for Kalanick to take a step away from Uber, Pishevar took issue with the process.

"These guys, they showed up the week that Travis' mother passed away in a tragic accident. His father was in the hospital, dying. And they saved his life. That very week, when Travis agreed to take a leave of absence to mourn his mother.... they holed him up in a room, in that state, in that moment, that's not an honorable thing, in my opinion, to do," Pishevar said. "They pushed him to resign. I don't think that's an honorable way of doing business."

Regardless of their relationships with Kalanick, both Benchmark and Pishevar can agree on one thing: the qualifications of Uber's new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi. Benchmark tweeted on Wednesday that they had been fans of Khosrowshahi's work and character for years.

Pishevar concurred.

"His family is also really a crown jewel of our community," Pishevar said. "Many, many of his family, his cousins, have been contributing to our country, to America, in such amazing ways. And we are all very proud that he has accepted and joined to lead Uber into its next phase of growth."

Here's a full statement Pishevar released on the trial. CNBC also reached out to Benchmark for comment:

Let us take this pause in this moment, when we find ourselves swimming in the crucible of one of the grandest business and moral battles of our generation, and find strength in each stroke of our proverbial digital pens, that we wrote with the indelible, eternal and permanent ink of righteousness. We write with the souls of thousands of lives saved, the lives of millions of jobs created liberating multitudes of drivers from the shackles of servitude to iniquitous taxi cartels of corrupt cabals that choked cities with their pollution of air and morals. We write with the spirit of Bonnie Kalanick, who raised her son with deep unconditional love and unfading faith in his ability to do good for the world. Whose tragic and untimely death was used against her son at his most vulnerable, unspeakable time of pain. They chose to strike at a moment of a devoted son's retreat and leave of absence to mourn the absence of the inviolable love of his mother. In doing so, they joined the very corruption her son had devoted such fervent passion to fight. In her memory, we devote our actions to a just cause; to defend what is right and to protect the interest of not only shareholders but most importantly the far more important stakeholders of employees, drivers and customers whose lives have been forever altered by the abiding faith and fervent hard work of Travis Kalanick and the Uber team. Their allegiance was met by this unholy alliance of perfidious greed devolving rapidly into the audacity of vituperative unparalleled predatory rapacity.

Let us strike tomorrow with the full and fulsome courage of our convictions. Let our just cause give pause to those who would ever dream of ever emulating the shameful shenanigans of these sanctimonious hypocrites who fling filings and letters de haut en bas; when it is we who have the higher moral ground and our letters and filing will hail down upon their platforms, exposing them as bitterly barren barons of moral turpitude. And as the summer sets, we let us be steward of truth who in unison proclaim: fiat justitia ruat caelum.

-Shervin Pishevar