Uber takes steps to steady its UK operations, appoints UK Chairman

Determined to not lose its license in London and in the UK, the ride services company has appointed a banking executive to better engage its UK team with the country’s authorities.

In a strategic step, Uber has appointed Laurel Powers-Freeling, as its chairman for UK, its most important European market, as it readies itself for battle to retain its license to operate in London.

Powers-Freeling, who was previously the CEO of Marks & Spencer’s banking arm M&S Money and a senior adviser to the Bank of England, will take on the newly created role from November 1.

“Uber is transforming how people get around and as a business it is also undergoing an important period of change,” said Powers-Freeling in a statement. “I look forward to working with the UK business to help them manage and implement that change”.

Uber is desperately fighting a legal battle to keep its 40,000 drivers on the streets of London following the British capital stripping it of its license since it deemed it unfit to run a taxi service, citing its approach to serious criminal offenses and its background checks on drivers.

However, Uber has been allowed to continue its operations until the appeals process is exhausted, which can take several years.

Its first date of hearing is due on December 11 2017.

Significantly, next week, the southern English city of Brighton will take a call on the firm’s application to renew its license in the area which is due to expire on November 4. If its application is rejected it would be another big blow to the company.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has criticized Uber’s British management saying it employs “an army of PR experts and an army of lawyers” while not engaging well enough with authorities.

With a valuation of nearly $70 billion and with backers including heavy weights such as BlackRock and Goldman Sachs, Uber is hoping that the newly created non-executive role will help provide its UK team with knowledge and experience.

“With this new position Laurel will help us with the next phase of changes we want to make to our UK business,” said Tom Elvidge, Uber’s UK interim general manager. “We’re determined to learn from the mistakes of the past and make things right”.

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