Zoox founder Tim Kentley-Klay pushed out in boardroom brawl
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Zoox founder Tim Kentley-Klay pushed out in boardroom brawl

The Australian co-founder of a $US3 billion ($4.1 billion) self-driving vehicle company backed by some of Sydney's most respected tech investors has been abruptly ousted as chief executive.

Tim Kentley-Klay, the co-founder of Zoox, which is based in Silicon Valley, was removed as CEO of the company on Thursday morning, Sydney time, in a decision that caught its Australian backers off guard.

 Melbournian, Tim Kentley-Klay of Zoox.

Melbournian, Tim Kentley-Klay of Zoox.

Photo: Shaughn and John

The removal of Mr Kentley-Klay came just weeks after Fairfax Media revealed the company was in talks over a mammoth funding round that valued its operations at $US3 billion.

The company has raised $US800 million from investors including two Sydney-based funds: Grok Ventures, the investment vehicle of Sydney tech mogul Mike-Cannon Brookes, and Blackbird Ventures. Neither responded to calls.

Contacted by Fairfax Media, Mr Kentley-Klay declined to comment, and pointed to his statements on Twitter.

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"The shocking reality is that this morning - without a warning, cause or right of reply - the board fired me," he said in a tweet. "Today was Silicon Valley up to its worst tricks."

Mr Kentley-Klay was formerly a designer and attended Camberwell Grammar School and Swinburne University in Victoria.

He has previously spoken of plans to build a fleet of driverless taxis that endlessly roam the streets. Zoox has been in stealth mode for most of its existence but has recently begun to share more about its plans.

"Zoox is not building a better car, we actually think we are building what comes after the car, which is a robot," he said at a conference last year.

Mr Kentley-Klay's co-founder, Jesse Levinson, who is the son of Apple chairman Arthur Levenson, has been elevated from chief technology officer to president. Carl Bass, formerly the CEO of tech firm Autodesk, has been elevated to executive chairman.

John McDuling writes about business, technology and the economy. Previously he was a reporter for Quartz in New York, covered telecommunications and markets for the Financial Review, and worked in the finance industry.

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