Wed, Oct 04, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Uber boss to meet with London transport chief

OPPORTUNITY:The firm’s rivals are eyeing its business, with Addison Lee saying that it was planning to boost driver numbers to tap uncertainty among Uber drivers

Reuters, LONDON

Uber Technologies Inc CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was yesterday to meet London’s transport regulator as the taxi-hailing app operator fights to keep its license in one of its most important foreign markets.

Transport for London, which runs and regulates the capital’s transport system, last month shocked Uber by deeming it unfit to run a taxi service and refusing to renew its license.

The agency cited the firm’s approach to reporting serious criminal offenses and background checks on drivers.

On Monday it was reported that Uber’s top boss in Britain, Jo Bertram, would be quitting in the next few weeks to take up an undisclosed new role outside the company.

Uber’s British management has been criticized by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is also chairman of regulator.

The firm needs to spend less time hiring “an army of PR [public relations] experts and an army of lawyers” and instead address issues raised by the agency, Khan said.

Khan, a center-left politician from Britain’s opposition Labour Party, approved yesterday’s meeting between Khosrowshahi and Transport for London Commissioner Mike Brown, who is in charge of the agency’s day-to-day operations.

Uber’s license expired on Saturday, but its about 40,000 drivers are still be able to take passengers until an appeals process is exhausted, which could take several months.

Khosrowshahi was appointed CEO in August, replacing cofounder Travis Kalanick, and has promised change at the US$70 billion firm.

He is battling to steer a new course for the app, which has faced regulatory crackdowns, court cases, bans and protests around the world, as well as several boardroom controversies.

In a sign of broader problems facing Uber, Khosrowshahi was yesterday also expected to call into a contentious board meeting in San Francisco that is to look at cutting the influence of Kalanick, sources said.

The meeting was expected to consider proposals to strip early investors of supervoting power and secure a multibillion-dollar investment.

Kalanick, ousted by investors in June, has contended that other Uber board members are moving too fast on a dramatic restructuring, sources said.

In a bid to repair ties with the authorities in London, Khosrowshahi last week struck a more conciliatory tone in an open letter to Londoners, marking a new approach for a firm that has deployed a combative style to break into closed markets around the world.

“It’s ... true that we’ve got things wrong along the way. On behalf of everyone at Uber globally, I apologize for the mistakes we’ve made,” he wrote in the open letter.

Uber’s fate in London is to be decided by a judge who is to rule on the appeal after it is submitted by Oct. 13.

Uber’s competitors are already trying to take its business. London’s second-biggest private hire firm Addison Lee on Friday last week said it was planning to increase its driver numbers in London by up to one-quarter.

A source familiar with the matter told reporters that the announcement was designed to tap into the growing uncertainty among Uber drivers over their futures.

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