Uber board set for contentious meeting over ex-CEO's power

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The board of Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL], including two new appointees of former Chief Executive Travis Kalanick, will meet on Tuesday to consider proposals that diminish the co-founder’s influence, strip early investors of supervoting power and secure a multibillion-dollar investment, sources said.

Proponents of the measures believe they can prevail on each issue, despite the addition to the board of two new directors named by Kalanick and a legal threat from early investors, two people familiar with the matter said.

Kalanick, ousted by investors in June, contends that fellow Uber board members are moving too fast on a dramatic restructuring and wants to delay a decision on governance changes, another source said. It is not clear how many measures will be voted on Tuesday.

The proposals are the latest flashpoint between Kalanick and Uber investors spearheaded by Silicon Valley’s Benchmark, which led the board revolt against Kalanick. Directors are divided about what role Kalanick should play and whether he should retain control over a large part of the board.

The company is seeking to shore up its reputation after a series of scandals. Proponents believe the proposals would improve corporate governance ahead of an expected initial public offering and illustrate the support of major new investors – SoftBank Group Corp and growth-oriented investor Dragoneer Investment Group.

Uber’s new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, last week proposed cutting the number of board seats controlled by Kalanick to one from three, raising the seats effectively controlled by Khosrowshahi to five from one, and eliminating supervoting rights, which give early shareholders multiple votes per share.

A second proposal, which proponents intend to be linked to the first, would allow internet firm SoftBank and Dragoneer to invest around $ 10 billion in Uber, two sources said.

That would include about $ 1 billion in new Uber shares at the current $ 68 billion valuation, with the rest earmarked for buying shares from current investors at a discount, the sources said. It is not clear how many shares current investors would sell at the terms discussed.

Kalanick responded to the proposals on Friday by appointing former Xerox Chief Executive Officer Ursula Burns and former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive Officer John Thain to fill two open director seats. Benchmark and others have legally challenged his ability to name the directors.

Burns and Thain took their seats Monday and will be eligible to vote at Tuesday’s board meeting in San Francisco, three people said.

Still, if the changes in voting control pass, the company could face a legal roadblock. Venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, investor Stephen Russell and other shareholders threatened Monday to sue directors who voted for the plan, including Kalanick.

Supervoting rights are valuable and important for holding the company accountable, they said. Stripping the rights without consent is unfair, according to a letter seen by Reuters from attorney Mark Geragos to Uber board members Kalanick, Garrett Camp and Ryan Graves.

Each of them stand to lose voting power because they hold shares that carry more than one vote a piece. Though unlikely to make all the concessions sought by fellow board members, Kalanick has shown willingness to cut supervoting rights in the name of strengthening governance, a source said.

“Our clients are confident that, following sober reflection, you will avoid this ill-advised misadventure,” Geragos wrote.

Switching to a one-vote-per-share policy could remove one reason for investors to hold onto Uber shares, creating more demand for SoftBank’s purchase offer. It could also help Uber, if it goes public, avoid being barred from the S&P 500 and other stock indexes that this year instituted rules against unequal voting rights.

Goldman Sachs, acting as a financial adviser to Uber’s board, has been working for weeks since an initial agreement with SoftBank to amass the shareholder proxies and support necessary to move forward with the transaction, according to a source.

Khosrowshahi, who is meeting London’s transportation regulator Tuesday to appeal the non-renewal of Uber’s operating license in the city, is expected to call into the board meeting, a source said.

Reporting By Paresh Dave and Liana Baker in San Francisco and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Peter Henderson and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Twitter Meeting With Senate Intelligence Committee Investigating Russia’s Involvement in 2016 Election

Twitter representatives will meet with the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence staff next week in relation to inquiries into the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a company representative said.

The committee, along with other congressional committees and special counsel Robert Mueller, is investigating possible links between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Twitter’s (twtr) meeting with the committee comes amid mounting pressure on regulators and Silicon Valley companies to open up the opaque world of online political ads and to prevent governments from using them to sway elections or attempt other meddling.

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Facebook (fb) said earlier this month that a Russia-based operation spent $ 100,000 on thousands of ads on its social media platform promoting “divisive” messages before and after last year’s presidential election.

After Facebook’s revelations, Democrats have urged the Federal Election Commission to require transparency for social media advertising.

Russia continues to deny meddling in the election, in which Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Tech

Microsoft launches meeting app Invite for iPhone, coming soon to Android and Windows Phone

One of the meeting rooms at Communitech, a startup mecca in Waterloo, Ontario. Google also has 200 employees here.

Microsoft today launched a new standalone app for scheduling meetings called Invite. Available only for iPhone users in the U.S. and Canada for now, you can download Invite now directly from Apple’s App Store.

Here is how it works. First you suggest times that work for you, and then invite attendees to vote. You can send invites to anyone with an email address — even if they are outside your organization. The recipients select all the times they can attend from the app itself or from a browser, once votes are in, you pick the time that works best.

microsoft_invite

The best part is that anyone invited can see what options work best for other attendees, and suggest their own times as well. The sender chooses a final date and time whenever they’re ready, hitting Send Calendar Invites to get it on everyone’s calendars.

Here is how Microsoft explains its thinking behind the app:

Invite is designed to overcome the biggest obstacle when scheduling meetings — not being able to see the calendars of attendees outside your organization. As a result, your proposed meeting can be repeatedly declined until you find a time that works.

From VentureBeat

Location, location, location — Not using geolocation to reach your mobile customers? Your competitors are. Find out what you’re missing.

Certain events and meetings can be moved if something more important comes up, but only each person knows best where they are flexible. By letting attendees pick times that work for them, even when it means moving one of their own meetings, can stop that meeting from being scheduled on a Friday evening.

Invite is mainly designed for users with Office 365 business and school accounts. That said, the app also works with any email account, including Outlook.com, Gmail, and Yahoo Mail.

The app’s launch and limitations are very similar to Microsoft’s Send, a lightweight email app that debuted in July. Like Send, Invite is starting out as iPhone-only, available only in two countries, and with the promise of “coming soon” to Android and Windows Phone.

Invite is the latest in a long line of apps to emerge from Microsoft Garage, the software giant’s lab for experimental tinkering. At this rate, Microsoft will soon have more experimental apps than “final” apps.

And that’s okay, as long as some of them are eventually released or integrated into existing products.

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