Uber’s board held a “marathon
meeting” last week,
Bloomberg reported, as the company grapples with its ties
to Saudi Arabia in the wake of
Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
- The Kingdom now reportedly owns more than 10% of the
ride-hailing firm, which is eyeing an IPO as valuable as $120
billion next year.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was one of the first to
pull out of Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment conference in
October after the murder
of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but behind the
scenes, his board has been working in overdrive to ensure the
international debacle doesn’t once again embroil the company in a
wave of bad press.
The company’s board held a “marathon meeting” last week, Bloomberg News reported, with all directors in
attendance, including former CEO Travis Kalanick and Saudi
official Othman Al-Rumayyan, who manages the Kingdom’s Public
Saudi Arabia, through “direct and indirect holdings” now owns
more than 10% of Uber, Bloomberg also reported. That’s double the
5% stake Uber said the Kingdom had purchased in 2016 for $3.5
billion, and could cause a headache for Uber as it races towards
an IPO as soon as next year.
An Uber spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Like Khosrowshahi and fellow Uber board member Ariana Huffington,
most of Wall Street was quick to shun the Saudi Arabian
conference, colloquially known as “Davos in the desert.”
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and US
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin all opted to skip the event, yet Kalanick along
with SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son were still among the Riyadh
SoftBank, another Uber investor, has also accepted $45 billion
worth of funding for its investments, according to Bloomberg. The Japanese company’s
Vision Fund is heavily invested in transportation initiatives
GM Cruise, and Nvidia.
Lyft, Uber’s closest competitor that’s also racing towards an
IPO, isn’t immune to the Saudi shadow. Saudi prince
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal led a $247.7 million investment
in the company, which now has a roughly 35% market share in the
US, that translates to a 5.3% stake, Reuters reported.
“Uber is creating lots of jobs in Saudi Arabia and making life
easier for drivers, customers and shareholders,” Saudi’s
at the conference last month. “We did not have these
interests before and we want to enhance these sectors.”