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Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick unloads nearly $1.5B in company shares

A lot of money is switching hands.

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Uber co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick has sold more than half of his stake in the company.

James Martin/CNET

Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick has put in a busy couple of weeks in the stock market. He's sold more than 53 million shares in the ride-hailing company since Nov. 6, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That's almost 55% of his stake in Uber, worth about $1.48 billion.

Uber investors and employees were first able to sell their shares in the company two weeks ago when its initial public offering lockup period ended. While many early investors said they'd hold on to their shares, others flooded the market, causing Uber's stock to hit record lows.

The company's shares haven't traded much higher than $29 since then -- roughly 35% lower than Uber's pre-IPO price of $45. Its valuation has also plummeted from $76 billion before it went public to about $50 billion today.

Uber has experienced a bruising as a public company. Since its debut on Wall Street in May, its share price has slumpedthree board members have stepped down, and it's seen an exodus of executives. Its chief product officer, Manik Gupta, said Monday that he's also leaving the company. Uber additionally has laid off about 5% of its staff in three rounds of cuts.

Uber's other co-founder, Garrett Camp, has also been selling off his shares since the lockup period ended. He's sold 760,000 shares, worth roughly $20 million, through several transactions. The optics around both of the company's co-founders selling so many shares isn't likely to help investor confidence.

Conversely, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and chairperson of Uber's board of directors, Ronald Sugar, bought shares in the company over the past two weeks -- though to a much lesser degree. Sugar bought 35,000 shares on Nov. 8, worth nearly $1 million. And Khosrowshahi bought 250,000 shares on Monday, worth about $6.68 million.

It isn't clear why Kalanick and Camp sold some of their shares; neither returned a request for comment. But they both still own large stakes in the company. Uber had roughly 1.7 billion shares when it went public, according to SEC filings. Of those, Kalanick still owns about 45 million shares and Camp owns more than 72 million. They also both sit on Uber's board of directors.

Neither Kalanick nor Camp work for Uber anymore. Camp left the company when it was still a nascent ride-hailing service. Kalanick's departure in 2017 was much more dramatic.

After six months of scandals -- including a #DeleteUber movement, allegations of a chaotic corporate culture that OK'd sexual harassment, and a lawsuit brought by Waymo claiming Uber stole its self-driving car tech -- Kalanick was forced to step down. Khosrowshahi came on as CEO two months later in August 2017.

Since his ouster at Uber, Kalanick bought a controlling stake in a real estate venture called City Storage Systems. He's since narrowed his focus on a restaurant delivery business within the company called CloudKitchens.

Kalanick reportedly raised $400 million from Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund for CloudKitchens in January, according to The Wall Street Journal. This was the fund's first known investment in a tech company since journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in October 2018 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. 

Both a CIA and UN investigation reportedly found that the Saudi government was responsible for Khashoggi's murder. Several high-level CEOs have reportedly backed off dealings with the country since then, but it doesn't appear to have affected Kalanick's relationship with the Saudi government.  

Uber didn't respond to a request for comment.

Originally published Nov. 18. 
Update, Nov. 19: Updated to reflect the newest SEC filings as of Monday. Update, Nov. 22: Updated to reflect the newest SEC filings as of Thursday.