Home
 
Choose Your City
Change City

Uber boss seeks to charm London transport chief in license row

By Costas Pitas

LONDON (Reuters) - Uber's new global boss Dara Khosrowshahi was due to meet London's transport regulator on Tuesday as the taxi hailing app fights to keep its license in one of its main foreign markets.

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

TfL cited the firm's approach to reporting serious criminal offences and background checks on drivers.

Both Uber and TfL were tight-lipped on details of the meeting, confirming neither the timing nor the venue. Reporters gathered outside TfL headquarters in central London on Tuesday afternoon but did not see Khosrowshahi.

Reuters reported on Monday 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 TfL. Khan said the firm needed to spend less time hiring "an army of PR experts and an army of lawyers" and instead address issues raised by TfL.

Khan, a center-left politician from Britain's opposition Labour Party, approved Tuesday's meeting between Khosrowshahi and TfL Commissioner Mike Brown, who is in charge of TfL's day-to-day operations.

Uber's license expired on Sept. 30 but its roughly 40,000 drivers are still be able to take passengers until an appeals process is exhausted, which could take several months.

BOARD MEETING

Khosrowshahi was appointed Uber chief executive in August, replacing co-founder and former boss Travis Kalanick and has promised change at the $70-billion dollar 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 is also expected to call into a contentious board meeting in San Francisco on Tuesday which will look at cutting the influence of Kalanick, sources said.

The meeting will consider proposals to strip early investors of supervoting power and secure a multibillion-dollar investment. Kalanick, ousted by investors in June, contends that fellow Uber board members are moving too fast on a dramatic restructuring, sources said.

Trying to repair relations 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 which 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 will be decided by a judge who will 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 said last week it was planning to increase its driver numbers in London by up to a quarter.

(Editing by Edmund Blair and Keith Weir)