The settlement that Uber negotiated with Waymo to settle a lawsuit over autonomous car technology signifies that Uber is Dara Khosrowshahi’s company now.
SAN FRANCISCO — For weeks, Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, and some of his lieutenants had worked behind the scenes to repair the ride-hailing company’s fractious relationship with Waymo, the self-driving business spun out of Google.
A Waymo lawsuit over autonomous-car technology, in which it accused Uber of stealing trade secrets, was about to go to trial in a San Francisco courtroom for all to see. So Khosrowshahi, who was appointed Uber CEO late last year, leaned on his history with Google from his previous job as chief executive of Bellevue-based travel site Expedia.
Khosrowshahi worked to coax Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and to let them know that Uber had turned over a new leaf, according to two people briefed on the situation, who asked not to be identified because the details were confidential. Tony West, Uber’s recently appointed general counsel and a former Justice Department official, also jumped into the negotiations, these people said.
The actions helped lead to a compromise. On Friday, four days after the trial began and revealed some embarrassing testimony, Uber and Waymo announced they had settled the trade-secrets dispute. Under the agreement, Waymo dropped the suit and will receive 0.34 percent of stock in Uber, valued at about $240 million. Uber also said it could have handled some past actions around driverless car tech differently.
The settlement signified something else too: Uber is Khosrowshahi’s company now. Since stepping inside Uber’s doors last fall, the 48-year-old has made it clear he wants to put the company’s checkered past behind it as fast as possible. With the Waymo deal, he showed the many tactics he plans to use to accomplish that — expressions of regret, accompanied by conciliation, compromise and efficiency. Call him the diplomat-in-chief.
Khosrowshahi’s modus operandi is to clear the way for the big tasks ahead for Uber, said the people who were briefed on the matter. One of those tasks is taking the ride-hailing company public next year, in what is likely to be a blockbuster initial public offering. As a private company, Uber is valued at around $70 billion.
“My job as Uber’s CEO is to set the course for the future of the company: innovating and growing responsibly, as well as acknowledging and correcting mistakes of the past,” Khosrowshahi said in a company blog post.
His fans applauded the Waymo compromise. “This is what real leadership looks like,” Chris Sacca, a venture capitalist who was an early investor in Uber, said in a tweet. “Acknowledgment, apology, commitment, optimism.”