Mobileye Co-founder Quits Hebrew University in Dispute Over Royalties

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The Mobileye logo appearing on a screen at the post where it trades on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, March 13, 2017.
The Mobileye logo appearing on a screen of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. The Intel deal may be the harbinger of more Israeli auto tech companies' success. Credit: Richard Drew/AP

Amnon Shashua, the co-founder of the auto-technology company Mobileye, has resigned from the faculty of the Hebrew University amid a dispute with the administration over royalties due the institution, sources told TheMarker.

Shashua, who was a professor at the Rachel and Selim Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering, tendered his resignation after the university said it wanted to discuss the question of payments due it from the $15.3 billion sale of Mobileye to Intel, which was completed last week.

The university also said it wanted to discuss royalties due it from the future sale of Mobileye’s intellectual property and the possibility of reopening an arbitration agreement dating from the early 2000s that was supposed to have settled the two sides’ dispute over royalties.

“The university confirms that it is engaged in a process with Mobileye and we hope that it will end soon in the best possible way," a spokesman for the institution said. "The university in principle does not issue statements on the private affairs of its faculty, and that applies to the current case.”

Formed in 1999 and based on research Shashua conducted at various times at the Jerusalem-based university, Mobileye became one of the biggest success stories of Israeli high-tech after it went public three years ago and was bought by Intel this year. The company began as a developer of anti-collision technology before emerging as a leading player in self-driving vehicles.

The comments on Shashua’s resignation came a day after TheMarker revealed that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan alleging that Shashua and co-founder Ziv Aviram provided insider information about the Intel deal.

No criminal indictment or civil suit has been filed against Shashua or Aviram, but the serious suspicions against them are described in a civil suit against Virginia residents Lawrence Cluff and Roger Shaoul that the SEC filed.

Even as Shashua was leading the company with Aviram and earned an estimated $1 billion from his stake in Mobileye, he remained on the university faculty. Last year he taught an advanced seminar on machine learning and this year was scheduled to teach another one.

The Hebrew University is known to be generous about royalty agreements and offers its “Green Track” in which it claims a relatively small share of future earnings from internet protocol developed by its faculty in the hopes of retaining them and profiting from their research in the future.

However, the administration and Shashua early on disagreed about royalties and went into arbitration that ended up awarding Mobileye shares to Yissum, the university’s research and development commercialization arm. Yissum has never disclosed its profits from Mobileye, but it is known to have sold some of its shares in 2008 and held an 0.6% stake at the time of Mobileye’s IPO. Since then it has sold about $40 million of stock.

One source, who asked not to be identified, says the university has not done badly financially on its share sale and that no one could have predicted how hugely successful Mobileye would turn out to be.

Still, the Hebrew University may be looking over its shoulder at the Weizmann Institute of Science, which profited immensely from its role in the development of the multiple sclerosis treatment Copaxone that was Teva Pharmaceutical Industries' best-selling drug for many years.

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