Lance Armstrong: Uber investment 'saved' my family

American says he didn't get off 'scot-free' after doping ban

In a recent interview with CNBC, Lance Armstrong has said he didn't get off 'scot-free' after recently settling a potentially $100 million fraud suit with the US federal government for $5 million. Armstrong claimed that he lost $111 million on collective legal fees, settlements and lost income but that a wise early investment in Uber "saved his family."

Broadcast on the American business network, CNBC sat down with Armstrong and zeroed in on his recent settlement with the US government in a fraud suit involving his US Postal Service team during his Tour de France run.

"I didn't think I got off scot-free, because the settlement with them for five was probably the 10th settlement," Armstrong said. "There were all of these cases, and the team, unbeknownst to me, had insured most of my pay and most of my bonuses. I knew about one of the insurance companies, but then they just started coming in, and I was like, 'Who are you?' 

"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."

Despite the huge expenses he's incurred, however, Armstrong admitted he's made tens of millions of dollars of an early investment in the ride-sharing company Uber. Armstrong said he invested $100,000 with the company in its infancy, but he wouldn't pin down a "ballpark" number for his return in investment when CNBC asked. Armstrong would only concede the current value is "a lot more" than his original investment. 

"It's too good to be true," he said. 

Pressed by CNBC whether his investment was worth 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 million dollars, Armstrong again deferred. 

"It's one of those," Armstrong said. "It's a lot. It's a lot. It saved our family."

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Armstrong admitted that his decision to invest in the company had more to do with the venture capitalist who helped launch the innovative ride service more than the particulars of the business itself.

"When I met Chris Sacca, I believe he was either at Google or Twitter, and you know Sacca's personality, larger than life, and we were having fun," Armstrong said. "We kept in touch, and then some years later, probably around '08 or '09, he left to start his own venture capital fund called Lower Case Capital and he called me. He said he was looking for investors, 'Would you invest?'

"I was thinking to myself, 'This guy has a huge personality, but he's also very smart, very connected, why not?' So I invested in Chris Sacca. I didn't even know that he did Uber. 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."

Armstrong says he follows the company very closely now, close enough to have strong feelings about former CEO Travis Kalanick, who was forced out in 2017 following growing controversies over the company's corporate culture and allegations that he ignored reports of sexual harassment there. 

Armstrong said he met Kalanick when Sacca brought him to the Tour de France, but he agrees with the decision to remove him as CEO.

"It's easy to say in hindsight, because I think [current Uber CEO] Dara [Khosrowshahi] has done a great job with what they're poised to do. It's pretty impressive," Armstrong said, adding that he was not completely comfortable with the situation. Armstrong compared Kalanick's removal with his own banishment from his the Livestrong Charity he founded.  

"I can't like that," Armstrong said of Kalanick's departure. "I mean, I was that guy. Travis and Uber is Lance and Livestrong. I mean, is there not some hybrid solution here? You're out of control. Time out. But, again, in hindsight, they haven't missed a beat, and so... I actually worry about Travis. I mean, I'll email him sometimes because he'll say things, and I'm like, 'Dude, I've seen this movie. It's got a really shitty ending.' Of course, his ending has a lot of zeroes on it.

"But no, you can't question their decision now."

Armstrong admitted to CNBC that he saw some of himself in Kalanick's situation.

"Yes, in the sense that he was - and I get it man, I get that this was your baby, and you want to fight for it, and you want to protect it, and you will do anything, say anything, do anything, go anywhere, confront anybody. But in this day and age - in 2018 - you can't."

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