Uber CEO takes humble approach in London licence fight

2017-09-26 14:45 - Adam Satariano
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Dara Khosrowshahi

New Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi (Drew Angerer, AFP)

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London - Uber’s potential ban in London is giving new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi an early opportunity to demonstrate a more humble approach to conflict than co-founder Travis Kalanick.

Responding to last week’s decision by London authorities to revoke its licence, Khosrowshahi acknowledged the company played fast and loose with the rules in its race to upend the global transportation industry. 

“I apologise for the mistakes we’ve made,” he said in an open letter published on Monday. Khosrowshahi added, “you have my commitment that we will work with London to make things right and keep this great city moving safely.”

But even as Khosrowshahi was striking a conciliatory note, the company was also pursuing a more political strategy keeping with the rulebook Kalanick honed during years of battles with cities around the world.

Uber said it will appeal the regulator’s decision, threatened to take the city to court, and started an online petition that now has more than 750 000 signatures. The first result of a Google search for “Uber London” is an ad linking to the petition.

Even so, London Mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed Monday’s comments from Uber’s new CEO. “Obviously I am pleased that he has acknowledged the issues that Uber faces in London,” Khan said in a statement. “Even though there is a legal process in place, I have asked TfL to make themselves available to meet with him.”

Transportation for London is the regulator that governs the city’s subway, buses and taxis.

Uber has disputed the findings of regulators, but said over the weekend it’s open to making concessions. The city criticised the company over its failure to conduct background checks on drivers, report crimes, and for a program called “Greyball” used to avoid regulators.

The company is facing another important legal test in London this week. On Wednesday, an employment tribunal will hear an appeal by Uber in a case that could require the company to treat workers as employees rather than contractors.

A ruling, which could come later this year, may lead to more pay and benefits for drivers in the UK In France, a court on Monday also heard arguments in an appeal by the company in a criminal case about fraudulent business practices.

“While Uber has revolutionised the way people move in cities around the world, it’s equally true that we’ve got things wrong along the way,” Khosrowshahi said in the statement.

“We won’t be perfect, but we will listen to you; we will look to be long-term partners with the cities we serve; and we will run our business with humility, integrity and passion,” he said.

Although it’s just a statement aimed at winning over those in London, Khosrowshahi is giving a glimpse of the softer touch he may use handling the long list of troubles he inherited at Uber.

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