Fired Uber Executive Said to Forfeit $250 Million Stock Grant

  • Levandowski was awarded 5.31 million shares when he was hired
  • Stock was forfeited when he left the company, Uber says

Fired Uber Exec Said to Forfeit $250 Million Payday

Anthony Levandowski lost both his job at Uber Technologies Inc. and a potential $250 million payday.

Levandowski, 37, who was terminated from the San Francisco-based company on Tuesday, got 5.31 million shares when he was hired in August. The grant was set to vest based on his continued service and achievement of certain performance milestones. Levandowski was employed at-will and none of the shares had vested when he left, according to an Uber executive familiar with the matter.

“Such awards are really intended for retention, and when an employee’s services are no longer needed, those awards are typically lost under at-will employment,” said Shane Tucker, a partner at Vinson & Elkins focused on executive compensation and benefits.

The termination caps Levandowski’s brief and dramatic stint at the ride-hailing juggernaut that acquired his company Otto, an autonomous trucking startup he formed after leaving Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo last year.

Many technology companies, including Apple Inc., Alphabet and Facebook Inc., typically don’t enter into employment contracts with senior executives. That means unvested shares are generally forfeited if they leave or are terminated.

If Levandowski had an employment contract, Uber could have been forced to cash him out of the award if he was let go without cause -- meaning he didn’t breach any of the terms in the contract or behaved in a way that would be grounds for a termination. A separation following a breach by the employee would typically result in a termination for good reason, which often causes unvested equity awards to be forfeited.

Uber said it fired the engineer because he failed to comply with an investigation into the alleged theft of self-driving car technology from Alphabet.

The $250 million valuation was cited in a court case by Waymo, the developer of driverless-car technology where Levandowski worked before founding Otto.

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