By Paresh Dave
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The former head of Uber Technologies Inc's self-driving technology unit, Anthony Levandowski, filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, shortly after a court confirmed that he must pay $179 million to Google to end a legal battle over his split from the Alphabet Inc unit.
Levandowski, who had been a key engineer in Google's self-driving project, and colleague Lior Ron engaged in unfair competition and breached their legal obligations by starting a rival company and bringing over Google employees, an arbitration panel ruled in December.
Uber, which later acquired the startup co-founded by Levandowski, indemnifies workers under its employment agreements. But Uber has said in financial filings that it expects to challenge paying the big judgment against its ex-employee Levandowski, who is fighting a federal indictment on charges of stealing trade secrets from Google.
Uber declined to comment. Levandowski's attorney Neel Chatterjee did not respond to a request for comment.
Levandowski filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, enabling him to negotiate debts. He has $50 million to $100 million in estimated assets, compared with $100 million to $500 million in liabilities, according to his filing.
He had disputed the arbitration ruling. But a San Francisco County court on Wednesday confirmed the arbitration panel's decision and award.
Ron, who remains at Uber, settled with Google for $9.7 million last month, and Alphabet's self-driving unit Waymo confirmed on Wednesday that Uber had paid the full amount that Ron owed.
Waymo said it would "continue to take the necessary steps to ensure our confidential information is protected."
It was known that Levandowski could owe $127 million, but previously undisclosed interest and attorneys' fees were later included.
The arbitration victory was the latest for Google and its self-driving tech spin-off Waymo in a multi-pronged legal battle with Uber.
(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Richard Chang and Diane Craft)