Anthony Levandowski, Otto Co-founder and VP of Engineering at Uber.

Angela Merendino | AFP | Getty Images

Anthony Levandowski, Otto Co-founder and VP of Engineering at Uber.

After a series of twists and turns on Friday, Uber’s legal struggle with Alphabet’s Waymo just got much simpler — in a way.

Indeed, in a new legal filing, Uber argues the fight basically comes down to one star engineer and his $120 million bonus from Alphabet — which he allegedly really, really wanted.

The battle centers around Anthony Levandowski, who was deeply involved in Google’s self-driving car initiative before leaving to found a start-up, Otto, which Uber later acquired. Waymo’s lawyers have asserted that Levandowski stole 14,000-plus documents from Alphabet, and that Levandowski was already negotiating with Uber before he left Alphabet.

The question now before the courts is whether Levandowski’s documents, including Alphabet trade secrets, were used to develop Uber’s self-driving cars.

Levandowski was paid generously at Google, by a division that is now Alphabet’s Waymo. He collected $120 million from Google, despite involvement with at least one start-up that would ultimately compete with his employer, Waymo said.

But Uber said on Friday that Levandowski downloaded the documents to compile extensive evidence that he deserved a bonus, and just happened to hang on to them. Indeed, Uber said that Levandowski admitted as much to former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and that the corresponding files were supposed to be destroyed during Uber’s acquisition of Otto.

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