​Uber investor sues ousted Kalanick as another exec resigns

Uber remains in hot water, with a top executive resigning and a major investor suing ex-CEO Travis Kalanick.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Controversial startup Uber faces a fresh round of turmoil, with a major investor suing the ride-booking company's former CEO and another top executive handing in his notice.

Ryan Graves told Uber staff in an email on Thursday he would move out of his role as senior vice president of global operations in mid-September, but will remain on the company's board.

That board -- and its support for ousted CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick -- was also the subject of a lawsuit filed on Thursday by Benchmark Capital Partners.

The lawsuit alleges Kalanick is trying to pack Uber's board with his allies and eventually return to his post as CEO, with the venture capital firm claiming doing so would harm Uber's shareholders, employees, drivers, and customers.

Benchmark, a major investor of Uber, owns 13 percent of the troubled company's stock.

A spokesman for Kalanick said the lawsuit was "completely without merit and riddled with lies and false allegations".

Kalanick stepped down in June following pressure from the company's board and a direct request from the company's investors.

Kalanick's exit followed "hours of drama" involving Uber's investors, which had earlier demanded he remove himself from the position immediately. The request to the co-founder of the multibillion-dollar ride-sharing startup allegedly came via a letter titled "moving Uber forward".

"I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight," Kalanick is quoted as saying in a statement to the New York Times.

Kalanick decided to take a break from the company a week prior, citing a family tragedy for his time away.

His leave was also touted as an act of valour, aimed at giving Uber time to rebuild its reputation after a long chain of scandals.

In Australia, Uber has found itself tangled up in regulatory troubles throughout the short few years it has had a presence down under.

Currently, seven out of eight states and territories allow the service to operate legally, the most recent addition being the state of Victoria, which only gave the official green light to the service overnight.

Victoria will impose a AU$1 levy on all commercial vehicle trips, which will come into effect next year, replacing licence fees and helping compensate taxi operators.

Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the reforms create a level playing field for taxis to compete with ride-sharing services and will encourage new operators to enter the market.

The Bill was passed on Thursday after the state government accepted upper house amendments, including the halving of the proposed AU$2 levy.

Under the reforms, drivers of Uber-like services will be require accreditation, while the government will buy-back licences from taxi drivers wanting to exit the industry. Drivers will receive AU$100,000 for a first licence and AU$50,000 per licence, capped at a total of four.

The government also agreed to remove a AU$50 million cap for their fairness fund to ensure all eligible applications receive payments.

Uber in a statement said it was pleased to see the "important reforms" passed "for the benefit of the travelling public, drivers and the industry as a whole".

The legalisation follows an announcement the Victorian government made in August last year that it would be overhauling the commercial passenger industry, leading to the establishment of a single registration system for all commercial passenger vehicles including taxis, hire cars, and ride-booking services.

The reforms by the Victorian government followed a decision passed in May 2016 by a Victorian County Court judge who ruled in favour of a Melbourne Uber driver, which via a loophole classed the service as legal.

South Australia, which legalised the operation of Uber-like services in July last year, announced this week ride-sharing services would be able to pick-up passengers at Adelaide Airport.

However, travellers to Adelaide airport are likely to be delayed on Friday as a protest by taxi drivers is expected to continue.

Taxi drivers staged a protest on Thursday night, refusing to pick up passengers in response to the airport's announcement to allow Uber to collect people from the terminal.

Uber was forced to cancel rides from the airport citing safety concerns and South Australian Police have warned a protest by taxi drivers is again planned for Friday morning.

The Northern Territory government, meanwhile, is still refusing to allow Uber to operate.

With AAP

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