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Armstrong reveals Uber millions have ‘saved’ his family

Daniel Ostanek
7 Dec 2018

Lance Armstrong claims an early investment in ride-sharing app has offset $111 million in lawsuit losses with 'too good to be true' returns

Disgraced seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has said that an early investment in ride-sharing app Uber has ‘saved’ his family after paying out millions in settlements and legal fees since his lifetime ban from cycling in 2012.

The American was stripped of all results from August 1998 onwards after an investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which described Armstrong’s US Postal Service team as having run ‘the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen.’

Armstrong, who admitted to using EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone during his career, says that he gave $100,000 to a venture capital fund in 2010, which went on to invest in the then-fledgling company.

'Too good to be true'

Describing the return on his investment during an interview with CNBC as ‘a lot more than’ what he initially put in, Armstrong added that the results have been ‘too good to be true’.

He told of how he wasn’t even aware of where his money was going when he gave it to ex-Google employee and entrepreneur Chris Sacca, who runs Lower Case Capital.

‘I invested in Chris Sacca. I didn’t even know that he did Uber,’ he said. ‘I thought he was buying up a bunch of Twitter shares from employees or former employees, but the biggest investment in Lower Case Fund One was Uber, which had a valuation of $3.7 million.’

In a lawsuit settled earlier this year, in which self-driving car company Waymo alleged that the company had stolen trade secrets, Uber was valued at $72 billion.

Armstrong, whose last major victory came at the 1998 Tour of Luxembourg, was coy on how much money he has made on the investment. When asked if it was 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 million dollars, he replied,  ‘it’s one of those. It’s a lot. It’s a lot. It saved our family.’ 

If even half of his $100,000 went into Uber at the value of $3.7m, at its current valuation that would place the market capitalisation of his stake at nearly $1bn. That said, the share would have likely dramatically reduced as a result of equity dilution.

Earlier this year, Kathy LeMond – wife of three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, and one of the multiple victims of Armstrong’s witness intimidation campaigns over the years – described his earnings as ‘ill gotten-gains.’

‘All that money he earned, he actually cheated to get it,’ she told USA Today. ‘He didn’t earn any of that honestly. It’s all ill-gotten gains.’

Like Armstrong, Uber has had its own share of trouble with the law, being banned in numerous countries and subject to legal actions in others. It’s currently under criminal investigation in the USA for its use of secret software to avoid law enforcement and government officials.

In the UK, the company has fought to deny employment rights to its drivers, eventually losing its case on appeal and being likened to ‘a 19th-century mill owner’ by Labour MP Jack Dromey. In London, Uber currently operates on a probationary license after initially being declared ‘not fit and proper’ to hold a private hire operator license by Transport For London.

Armstrong, meanwhile, has claimed that he’s paid out $111 million in total in lawsuits and settlements since his ban was handed down.

‘I don’t think I got off scot-free,’ he said. ‘The settlement with them [the US government] for five [million dollars] was probably the tenth settlement.’

‘This is going to shock you, but once you total up all of it – so loss of guaranteed income, legal fees and settlements – it comes to 111 million bucks. So I don’t feel like I got off easy.’

Lawsuits and Settlements

The publicly-disclosed payouts he’s made so far includes $5 million to the US government earlier this year, as part of a lawsuit initially filed by ex-teammate Floyd Landis in 2010. Back in 2013, he settled for an undisclosed amount to Nebraska-based Acceptance Insurance, which he had defrauded out of performance bonuses between 1999 and 2001.

Two years later, he paid out $10 million to SCA Promotions, in a long-running case infamous for his 2005 deposition hearing. The Sunday Times has also received £300,000 he won in a 2006 libel case against them.

Armstrong maintains that his own behaviour led to his downfall, rather than the industrial-scale of the doping he and his team organised.

‘Most people have enough history and knowledge to know everybody did it [doping],’ he said, declining to add that the 2015 Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) Report found numerous examples in which UCI leadership ‘defended or protected Lance Armstrong and took decisions because they were favourable to him.’

‘That [doping] isn’t the issue for people,’ he claimed. ‘The issue is how aggressively I defended myself, being litigious, going after people.’

 ‘Even if I did all that [doping] but I was a gentleman and I had class and dignity and treated people with respect, they would’ve let me off. Nobody would’ve come after me. I insist that it was the way I acted that was my undoing.’

Armstrong remains banned from cycling for life.

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