when Uber dreamed of Bernard Arnault and Xavier Niel as VIP lobbyists

Entrepreneurs Xavier Niel (left), founder of Free, and Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH.

January 21, 2015 Travis Kalanick is ready to do anything. Driving through Paris, the American boss of Uber must convince the two big cats of French capitalism to invest in his company, which is still to many no more than a curious UFO, halfway between a transportation company and a technology company. a startup

The seduction operation begins at noon at Apicius, a chic restaurant on 8d district of Paris, where Xavier Nile, the founder of the telephone operator Free, is also an individual shareholder world. It continues a few hours later, on the other side of the Champs-Élysées, at the headquarters of LVMH, where he meets Bernard Arnault, the all-powerful boss of the luxury giant. Only two Frenchmen are worth more than 35 billion euros. But Mr. Kalanick is not interested in their wealth, but in their political influence.

This is the stated goal of “Project Cheetah”, revealed by the survey “Uber Files”, which World participated with various media partners, including Guardian. This funding round of several hundred million dollars, opened a few months ago by the management of Uber, is designed to attract personnel around the world. “strategic investors” vested with sufficient weight to defend the aggressive methods of the American group in the face of recalcitrant governments.

“We want them to help us, and if they invest personally, it’s a good way to put their skin on the line. We don’t really need their money, but they can be useful allies.”summarizes Pierre-Dimitri Gor-Coty, group general manager for Western Europe, in an email.

The Uber Files, an international investigation

The Uber Files is an investigation based on thousands of internal Uber documents sent by an anonymous source to a British daily newspaper. Guardianand transferred to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and 42 media partners, including World.

Emails, presentations, minutes of meetings… These 124,000 documents, dating from 2013-2017, offer a rare dive into the secrets of a startup that was then trying to gain a foothold in cities around the world despite the regulatory context. They detail how Uber used lobbying tricks in France, as in other countries, to try to change the law in its favor.

The “Uber files” also reveal how the California group, which decided to impose itself after the fact and, if necessary, to act illegally, used methods that were deliberately outside the bounds of the law, or that could amount to judicial obstruction of the investigations of which it was the subject .

Find all of our articles in the Uber Files survey.

The role of periodic ambassadors

The company wants to repeat the Australian example, where a rich family of investors is supported “played a key role in getting us a license to operate”, as another leader mentions. Much more useful than “passive investors who promise a lot but do nothing”.

In each high-stakes country, Uber executives identify profiles likely to become their VIP lobbyists: in Italy, former chairman Silvio Berlusconi; in Spain, footballers Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi; in Russia, oligarch Roman Abramovich. On the French side, Uber is looking at several CAC 40 heavyweights, from Vincent Bollore to François Pinault, via the Dassault and Deco families. However, they prefer the first tricolor wealth Bernard Arnault, who is considered capable“to influence the French regulatory situation” – with a request Worldhe didn’t answer.

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