OVG CEO Tim Leiweke issued a statement saying Bonderman did the right thing by immediately taking responsibility and sent a strong message by resigning. But Leiweke added that Bonderman’s comments “do not represent him, his beliefs or the views of the Oak View Group.”
The Oak View Group is sticking with billionaire partner David Bonderman despite his resignation from Uber’s board of directors over his sexist comments about women.
OVG founder and CEO Tim Leiweke issued a statement Wednesday saying Bonderman did the right thing by immediately taking responsibility and sent a strong message by resigning. But Leiweke added that Bonderman’s comments “do not represent him, his beliefs or the views of the Oak View Group.”
Leiweke added further: “He has acknowledged that, even though the comments were misunderstood, their impact was clear and he needed to hold himself to the same standards being asked of the company (Uber).
“I have known David a long time: he has always shown dedication to fairness and equality in his business and philanthropic endeavors, and his record clearly reflects that.’’
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Bonderman on Tuesday generated national headlines for his comments during an Uber all-staff meeting addressing allegations of sexism and harassment at the company. During the meeting, Uber’s lone female board member, media mogul Ariana Huffington, told employees: “There’s a lot of data that shows when there’s one woman on the board, it’s a lot more likely there will be a second woman on the board.’’
At which point, Bonderman jokingly interjected: “Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.”
Several staffers complained after the meeting and audio of the comments soon appeared online. Bonderman issued an apology shortly after and later resigned from Uber’s board, saying the company didn’t need the distraction.
Last week, OVG announced that Bonderman and Hollywood movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer had joined their KeyArena renovation effort and would seek to bring an NHL team to the venue. Mayor Ed Murray had confirmed that OVG and its $564 million proposal had been selected over a rival $521 million bid by Seattle Partners — which dropped out of the competition before a winner could be announced.
Murray issued a statement Wednesday: “While David Bonderman has acknowledged that his comments to Ariana Huffington were sexist, it is disappointing they were ever made in today’s world. As we have said, businesses that wish to partner with the City of Seattle must share our values of equity and inclusion. Because of the negative impact of attitudes and comments like these, we will engage with Oak View Group during our negotiation to ensure our partnership is built on and reflective of Seattle’s values.”
Investment banker Bonderman, a University of Washington graduate, has amassed a net worth Forbes pegs at $2.5 billion through his TPG Capital firm. He is also a minority owner of the Boston Celtics.
Bonderman and Bruckheimer together tried to bring an NHL expansion franchise to Las Vegas in 2007. The duo has a combined net worth approaching $3.5 billion.
The OVG bid would have to be approved by the nine-member Seattle City Council. Five of those council members are female.
In May 2016, the council voted 5-4 along gender lines against approving the sale of Occidental Avenue South to entrepreneur Chris Hansen that would have enabled his plans for a new arena in Sodo District to proceed. In the aftermath of the vote, the five female council members were sent a slew of sexist and misogynistic emails by angry fans hoping for the return of the NBA Sonics to town.
The email onslaught drew national attention, prompted by denunciations from the council members, and even earned them a spot on comedian Samantha Bee’s TV show, “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.” Pro-Hansen supporters have long complained their movement was tarnished by the actions of a few disgruntled fans.
Bonderman’s comments could place the city council in an uncomfortable political position with regard to the OVG proposal, considering how vociferously they spoke out against the email backlash last year.
Besides needing to approve the OVG bid, the council also will have to consider a new request by Hansen — now pitching an all-private-funded Sodo arena — to vacate Occidental this fall.
Hansen’s group on Wednesday released a letter of support from J.P. Morgan stating it believed he could successfully finance his project based largely on sales of seat licenses and sponsorships, in addition to private equity and bank lending. Those contingencies appear to suggest Hansen needs a team before the project could proceed.
OVG says it will proceed without teams and secured a letter from Goldman Sachs stating it could receive between $150 million and $200 million in lending. Hansen’s letter from J.P. Morgan did not contain a dollar amount.