Uber's Kalanick ignored warnings from execs about buying self-driving truck start-up Otto, says report

  • Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick ignored warnings about buying Otto, an acquisition that spurred a lawsuit with Waymo, according to a Bloomberg profile.
  • Kalanick called Levandowski his "brother from another mother" and refused to fire him when Waymo filed its lawsuit against Uber in February.
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Mike Windle | Getty Image

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick pushed for buying self-driving truck startup Otto — a purchase that led to a multibillion-dollar lawsuit — despite warnings from other senior executives, according to a profile published by Bloomberg.

As Uber contemplated buying Otto in 2016, Salle Yoo, Uber's general counsel, reportedly expressed her "serious reservations" to Kalanick, Bloomberg reported. Top deputy Emil Michael also thought the move would lead to a backlash from Google, because Otto was run by former Google employees, including co-founders Anthony Levandowski and Lior Ron.

Uber moved forward with the acquisition anyway. Last year, Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Alphabet, sued Uber for $1.86 billion, accusing Levandowski of taking 14,000 technical files related to self-driving technologies with him when he left Google.

After the suit landed in February, Yoo urged Kalanick to fire Levandowski or put him on leave. However, Kalanick once again dismissed the advice and said that Uber should keep Levandowski, who Kalanick had described as his "brother from another mother." The company eventually fired Levandowski three months later for failing to comply with internal investigations related to the Waymo suit.

Kalanick was forced to resign as CEO in June.

Uber and Waymo are slated to appear in court in February. The case has already been a massive headache for Uber, shining a light on many problematic business practices.

Meanwhile, a more recent salacious lawsuit from Levandowski's nanny, Erika Wong, adds some details about the relationship between Kalanick and the former Otto CEO. The suit alleges that Kalanick came to Levandowski's house for five hours in March and that the two discussed legal documents that Levandowski had to sign as well as "a white bucket that contained circuit boards, items related to circuit boards and various reflective lenses."

An Uber spokesperson declined to comment.

Clarification: This story was revised to clarify that Waymo is seeking $1.86 billion in damages, not $2.6 billion as Uber's lawyer originally stated.