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Why Uber's big deal for Grubhub fell out — and a European suitor stepped in

The deal was reportedly nixed due to antitrust concerns, which have shadowed the courtship since it was revealed publicly.

Hands holding donuts

How many ways can the food delivery market be split among companies? Recent moves signal a trend toward consolidation.

Photo: Tu Trinh/Unsplash

The hottest deal in tech isn't happening after all: Uber's acquisition talks with Grubhub have collapsed, and Grubhub instead will merge with European giant Just Eat Takeaway.com.

The Uber deal was reportedly nixed due to antitrust concerns, which shadowed the courtship since it was revealed publicly. Rep. David Cicilline, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary's antitrust subcommittee, called the potential deal "a new low in pandemic profiteering," while a group of Democratic senators asked the FTC and Department of Justice to look into the acquisition, which they claimed would "raise serious competition issues." Based on a Wedbush analysis, a combined Grubhub and Uber Eats would have controlled around 55% of the U.S. restaurant delivery market.

Amid this political uncertainty, Grubhub reportedly wanted Uber to agree to a cash breakup fee, to be paid in the event that the deal didn't go through. Uber was seemingly reluctant to commit — and has now bailed altogether.

Fortunately for the struggling Grubhub, an overseas savior emerged. Grubhub and Just Eat Takeaway.com (which we'll call JET) announced Wednesday that they'll merge in an all-stock deal. JET is itself the product of a merger, with the Dutch Takeaway.com acquiring Britain's Just Eat this year for around $7.4 billion.

Grubhub, which is worth around $5 billion, will finally give the European firm a foothold in the U.S., delivery's second-biggest market. JET's lack of a U.S. presence up to now also means that the deal is unlikely to run afoul of U.S. regulators, who don't have to worry about decreased competition in the American market.

That's not the only reason this deal makes sense. Like Grubhub, JET's primary focus is a marketplace-based model, one that pairs consumers with restaurants that handle their own delivery. Uber Eats, meanwhile, pays its own drivers — a business that Grubhub executives famously said would never "generate significant profits," but were forced to enter in the face of competition from DoorDash, Postmates and Uber Eats.

Should the merger go through, then, a crucial question will be whether Grubhub continues to do its own deliveries (something that JET has also experimented with) or if it retreats to its once-successful marketplace-only model.

Grubhub could also benefit from having an owner that is singularly dedicated to delivering food and one that's been in the game for a long time. Both Just Eat and Takeaway.com were founded in 2000, before Grubhub's 2004 founding and significantly earlier than Uber Eats' 2014 launch.

For Uber, the loss of the deal is a mixed bag. Uber wanted to expand Eats' market share, helping to boost its least-unprofitable segment — and may now struggle to do so. But there could be a silver lining. With Uber under significant financial and regulatory pressures, a complex merger might not have been the best idea right now. Without Grubhub to distract it, Uber can focus on its core business of moving people.

This post was updated with more information about the Just Eat Takeaway.com merger.

Protocol | Workplace

The pay gap persists for Black women

"The pay gap is a multifaceted problem and any time you have a complex problem, there's not a single solution that's going to solve it."

For every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, Black women are paid just 63 cents, according to the American Community Survey Census data.

Photo: Christine/Unsplash

Last year's racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd led many tech companies to commit to promoting equity within their organizations, including working toward pay equity. But despite efforts, the wage gap for Black women still persists. For every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, Black women are paid just 63 cents, according to the American Community Survey Census data.

Black Women's Equal Pay Day on Tuesday represents the estimated number of days into the year it would take for Black women to make what their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts made at the end of the previous year, according to the organization Equal Pay Today. And while the responsibility to fix the pay gap falls mostly on companies to rectify, some female employees have taken matters into their own hands and held companies to their asserted values by negotiating higher pay.

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Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

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What comes to mind when you think of AI? In the past, it might have been the Turing test, a sci-fi character or IBM's Deep Blue-defeating chess champion Garry Kasparov. Today, instead of copying human intelligence, we're seeing immense progress made in using AI to unobtrusively simplify and enrich our own intelligence and experiences. Natural language processing, modern encrypted security solutions, advanced perception and imaging capabilities, next-generation data management and logistics, and automotive assistance are some of the many ways AI is quietly yet unmistakably driving some of the latest advancements inside our phones, PCs, cars and other crucial 21st century devices. And the combination of 5G and AI is enabling a world with distributed intelligence where AI processing is happening on devices and in the cloud.

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Alex Katouzian
Alex Katouzian currently serves as senior vice president and general manager of the Mobile, Compute and Infrastructure (MCI) Business Unit at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. In this role, Katouzian is responsible for the profit, loss and strategy of the MCI BU, which includes business lines for Mobile Handset Products and Application Processor Technologies, 4G and 5G Mobile Broadband for embedded applications, Small and Macro Cells, Modem Technologies, Compute products across multiple OS’, eXtended Reality and AI Edge Cloud products.
Protocol | Workplace

Tech company hybrid work policies are becoming more flexible, not less

Twitter, LinkedIn and Asana are already changing their hybrid policies to allow for more flexibility.

Photo: FG Trade/Getty Images

Twitter, LinkedIn and Asana are all loosening up their strategies around hybrid work, allowing for more flexibility before even fully reopening their offices.

In the last week and a half, Twitter announced it's adopting an asynchronous-first approach, and both Asana and LinkedIn said they would increase the amount of time their employees can work remotely.

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Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
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Activision Blizzard scrambles to repair its toxic image

Blizzard President J. Allen Brack is the first executive to depart amid the sexual harassment crisis.

Activision Blizzard doesn't seem committed to lasting change.

Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Getty Images

As Activision Blizzard's workplace crisis rages on into its third week, the company is taking measures to try to calm the storm — to little avail. On Tuesday, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack, who took the reins at the developer responsible for World of Warcraft back in 2018, resigned. He's to be replaced by executives Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, who will co-lead the studio in a power-sharing agreement some believe further solidifies CEO Bobby Kotick's control over the subsidiary.

Nowhere in Blizzard's statement about Brack's departure does it mention California's explosive sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit at the heart of the saga. The lawsuit, filed last month, resulted last week in a 500-person walkout at Blizzard's headquarters in Irvine. (Among the attendees was none other than Ybarra, the new studio co-head.)

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Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
Protocol | Workplace

Alabama Amazon workers will likely get a second union vote

An NLRB judge said that Amazon "usurped" the NLRB by pushing for a mailbox to be installed in front of its facility, and also that the company violated laws that protect workers from monitoring of their behavior during union elections.

An NLRB judge ruled that Amazon has violated union election rules

Image: Amazon

Bessemer, Alabama warehouse workers will likely get a second union vote because of Amazon's efforts to have a USPS ballot box installed just outside of the Bessemer warehouse facility during the mail-in vote, as well as other violations of union vote rules, according to an NLRB ruling published Tuesday morning.

While union organizers, represented by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, lost the first vote by more than a 2:1 margin, a second election will be scheduled and held unless Amazon successfully appeals the ruling. Though Amazon is the country's second-largest private employer, no unionization effort at the company has ever been successful.

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

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