The former leader of Uber Technologies’ self-driving unit, Anthony Levandowski, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday, and it looks to have something to do with the $179 million he’s legally obliged to pay Google. A San Francisco County court decreed the same day that Anthony needs to pay out in order to settle his contract dispute.
In December, it was ruled that Levandowski and Lior Ron violated their agreement with Google when they left the company to start Otto — a rival autonomous vehicle company focused primarily on commercial trucking. Uber purchased Otto in 2017 but Google’s self-driving arm (which evolved into Waymo) claimed Levandowski violated intellectual property laws by stealing trade secrets it owned for Uber. While Ron decided to pay $9.7 million to settle with the tech firm, Anthony held out. He also faces a federal indictment over the alleged intellectual property violation.
According to Reuters, Mr. Levandowski is estimated to have between $50 million to $100 million in assets, compared with $100 million to $500 million in liabilities. The Chapter 11 filing should give him some amount of protection. He also might not be legally liable for entire sum. Uber may also be forced to help out, depending on what his contract says.
Regardless, the saga seems to have worked out rather well for Google/Waymo. Uber settled way back in 2018, offering 0.34 percent of its equity while agreeing never to use Waymo’s confidential information in its autonomous vehicle technology — though some of the items originally deemed “trade secrets” were dropped. It was an odd situation, as Google’s legal team initially seemed to have serious problems proving that Uber had done wrong and the case was stymied by both parties not wanting any technological details leaked to the public. The settlement came as a big surprise, though it was likely preferable to the complications that would arise from a prolonged legal battle.