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Jeremy Guillory, who says he was ousted as Cruise cofounder, files counter-complaint detailing why

TechCrunch TechCrunch 14/04/2016 Connie Loizos

Jeremy Guillory, a Bay Area mechanical engineer, has filed a cross-complaint against 2.5-year-old Cruise Automation and its longtime CEO, Kyle Vogt, saying that the self-driving car company — which developed autopilot system for existing cars and is being acquired by General Motors for reportedly north of $1 billion — has cheated him out of a 50 percent ownership stake in the business. (In legalese, Guillory is accusing Vogt and Cruise of promissory estoppel, conversion, unjust enrichment and accounting.)

You knew this counterclaim was coming yesterday, when the president of Y Combinator, Sam Altman, tried to get ahead of things publicly.

As you may have read then, Altman, who has known Vogt for years and whose accelerator program provided Cruise its first check, wrote that Guillory had privately requested some of Vogt’s equity, a demand that Altman characterized as “bogus.”

The matter had remained private, with Vogt making what Altman described as an “extremely generous offer to settle this claim.” When his offer wasn’t accepted by a deadline last Friday, Vogt hired the law firm Orrick to sue Guillory for so-called declaratory relief.

It’s “far more than I would have personally done under these circumstances,” wrote Altman, who added that Guillory “collaborated with Kyle for a very short period early on in the life of Cruise. I know that at least Kyle had been thinking about autonomous vehicles for quite some time, and I assume Jeremy had been too given all of the attention on the topic in the press about Google’s activities.  After a little over a month, Kyle and Jeremy parted ways.  This event happened more than two years ago, and well before the company had achieved much of anything.”

Guillory’s cross-complaint seems to confirm this account. It says Guillory and Vogt met in mid October 2013 and began working on Cruise. By October 21, 2013, they had submitted an application to Y Combinator, whose deadline that year was on October 31st. By November 7, 2013, after the duo had been accepted into the accelerator, Vogt told Guillory that he no longer wanted to work together.

Guillory’s attorneys note that on that application to YC, Guillory and Vogt list themselves as cofounders and 50 percent shareholders of Cruise.

That seems to be the only documentation Guillory has to support his claim. Whether it’s enough could determine whether or not Guillory is entitled to up to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Guillory has not responded to requests for comment as of this writing. But investors are rushing to Vogt’s defense in the meantime.

In addition to Altman, early Cruise investor Eric Paley of Founder Collective told us yesterday via email that: “While I’m not at liberty to speak for the company on the details of the lawsuit, Mr. Guillory’s claim is completely frivolous.  Kyle Vogt is a person of exceptional integrity. I’ve known Kyle since he was a college student, when he was an MIT undergrad interning at my startup. In the eight years since he’s been a model citizen of the startup world and truly one of the best entrepreneurs of the last decade – founding two billion dollar companies.”

Vogt had previously cofounded the social video platform Twitch, sold to Amazon for $1.1 billion in August 2014.

Continued Paley, “We were proud to be one of the first investors in Cruise and to back Kyle’s vision. I first discussed Cruise with Kyle when he was on the starting line and never met Jeremy Guillory or even heard his name. Our investment decision was made entirely on the basis of Kyle’s personal credibility, his track record as a technologist, and his vision for the future. I can’t comment on the specifics of the case, but I’d proudly back Kyle again.”

More on this story soon.

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