Kalanick’s stated objectives for acquisition of Otto

In litigation with Google about alleged theft of Google intellectual property, Google counsel presented notes from John Bares, then director of Uber’s driverless car center in Pittsburgh, from a December 2015 meeting with Uber then-CEO Travis Kalanick discussing:

TK what we want
all of their data
road map
pound of flesh

On one interpretation, the “what we want” was what Uber wanted from a prospective acquisition of Otto — but notably, what Otto would in turn bring from Google (where key staff had worked previously). In particular, Uber had no fight with Otto and no reason to want a “pound of flesh” from Otto. In contrast, Uber’s tensions with Google were longstanding and well known. In that case, these notes would also indicate Uber intentionally wanting “all of their [Google’s] data” as well as Google’s “source [code]” and more.

Kalanick defended Otto founder Anthony Levandowski

Against the advice of then-General Counsel Salle Yoo and without support from then-Chief Business Officer Emil Michael, Uber then-CEO Travis Kalanick pushed forward with the acquisition of Otto, a startup for self-driving trucks.

Bloomberg reports multiple reasons why Kalanick could have been concerned about the deal and Levandowski’s tactics.

One, Otto consisted primarily of ex-Google staff, and Uber’s acquisition of Otto angered Google leaders, including co-founder Larry Page.

Two, before the deal closed, Uber’s investigators learned that Levandowski had possessed five disks of data from Google’s driverless effort including “source code, design files, laser files, engineering documents and software related to Google self-driving cars.” Uber’s investigators also knew that Levandowski’s claims to have destroyed the disks could not be verified. Kalanick said he did not read the investigators’ report.

Three, Levandowski asked Uber to protect him from legal attacks from Google, and Kalanick agreed to do so.

Even when Google sued Uber over the acquisition, and Levandowski invoked the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination to decline to cooperate with litigation, Kalanick continued to support Levandowski, claiming he would eventually be vindicated.

Bloomberg further reports Kalanick calling Levandowski his “brother from another mother.”

Kalanick didn’t abide by leave

When pressed to take leave in response to mounting scandals, then-CEO Travis Kalanick was seen not to comply with the leave. Board member Arianna Huffington was seen as his proxy. Bloomberg reported that Uber’s finance team was spreading the word that Kalanick was still in charge. Among Kalanick’s activities while on leave was searching employee emails to investigate leaks.

Bloomberg reported that Kalanick’s handpicked executive team objected to his meddling while on leave and sent a letter asking him to stop.

Kalanick re-debated with Uber driver, then (without authority) promised equity in Uber

After being caught on video arguing with Uber driver Fawzi Kamel, Kalanick sought to meet with the driver again to try to make things right. Bloomberg reports that Kalanick had planned to meet with the driver briefly, as little as five minutes, for a simple apology. Instead, the meeting lasted more than an hour, and Kamel and Kalanick reopened their debate about Uber’s pricing policies.

As part of the discussion, Kalanick suggested that he give the driver Uber stock. Uber attorneys rejected the proposal, seeing it as improper that Uber shareholders pay to clean up Kalanick’s personal problem. Kalanick ended up paying Kamel $200,000 of personal funds.

Escort bar visit

In 2014, then-CEO Travis Kalanick, then-SVP of Business Emil Michael, and others visited a “karaoke” bar in Seoul, Korea which was staffed by “escorts.” Each woman was labeled with a number so customers could pick them out.

Emil Michael later attempted to cover up the visit.