Google Executives Twist the Knife in Uber’s Back – Vanity Fair
Uber’s recent misfortunes appear to be redounding to Lyft’s benefit. While the ride-hailing giant hopes to turn the page with new C.E.O. Dara Khosrowshahi, its smaller rival is in talks with Google for a $1 billion investment, Axios and Bloomberg report, a cash infusion that would significantly bolster the $7.5 billion company at a time when Uber is racing to resuscitate its brand. The money could come from CapitalG, Google parent company Alphabet’s private-equity arm, or from Google itself. More important, the potential deal seems to fueled as much by spite as by strategy: the push is reportedly coming from the highest levels, with executives like C.E.O. Larry Page driving the deal. As one Uber investor told Axios: “That is seriously messed up.”
Google has plenty of reasons to bankroll Uber’s rival. Four years ago, Google Ventures partners David Krane and Bill Maris eagerly pumped $258 million into Uber, a stake reportedly worth about 7 percent of the company. But over time, the relationship between the two companies crumbled: In July 2016, Uber—which had long relied in part on Google’s mapping technology to power its maps and navigation—was said to be investing half a billion dollars in creating its own worldwide mapping system, lessening its reliance on Google. Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond resigned from Uber’s board last year as the two companies began competing to develop autonomous car technology. Six months later, Google self-driving car company Waymo would sue Uber for intellectual property theft and patent violations. (Uber has denied any wrongdoing.) Uber also began heavily recruiting Google employees for a number of divisions within the company.
Lyft and Google, meanwhile, have forged something of a relationship in recent months, despite Google’s dealings with Uber. Waymo signed a deal to work with Lyft on self-driving car technology in May. When Lyft announced in July that it would form its own self-driving car division and develop its own self-driving system at a facility in Palo Alto, it said Waymo would be one of its partners.
While Uber has publicly struggled amid a deluge of bad news—a wide-ranging series of corporate-culture and sexual-harassment scandals earlier this year ultimately led C.E.O. Travis Kalanick to resign, and Uber’s board’s messy politics have spilled out into public view—Lyft has quietly benefited, gaining market share and expanding to 40 U.S. states and 250 U.S. cities. An international expansion may be on its way, presumably made easier by a cash infusion from Google. Meanwhile, Uber is weighing an investment from Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group, though SoftBank, Axios reports, is insisting on a 17.3 percent stake that would require some shareholders to sell their stake. SoftBank has reportedly threatened to invest in Lyft if its demands can’t be met.