Uber is lining up a banking veteran to chair its British operations in an effort to establish a more robust governance framework that could help prevent the loss of its London operating licence.
Sky News has learnt that the world’s most valuable ride-hailing app has identified Laurel Powers-Freeling, a former chief executive of Marks & Spencer Money, as the leading candidate for the new position.
An announcement about Ms Powers-Freeling’s appointment is said to be likely within the next few days, although sources cautioned that a deal had yet to be signed.
Insiders suggested that if finalised, her appointment would add a heavyweight presence to Uber’s UK operations.
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Ms Powers-Freeling is a former director of and senior adviser to the Bank of England; and currently serves on boards including Atom Bank, the digital lender, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Europe, and C Hoare and Co, the private bank.
She has previously worked for companies such as American Express, Lloyds TSB and Prudential.
Image: Uber is appealing TfL’s decision not to renew its London licence
Uber’s search for an independent business figure to chair its UK business has acquired greater urgency in recent weeks, following the ban announced by Transport for London (TfL) last month.
Regulators said that Uber was no longer “a fit and proper” holder of a private-hire licence , and Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, accused the company of “failing to play by the rules”,
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Plans for the appointment of a UK chair, which is being overseen by headhunting firm The Inzito Partnership, were drawn up prior to the ban being announced.
Since then, Uber has hired an army of advisers, including a regulatory consultancy set up by the former boss of Ofcom, to aid its appeal against the loss of one of its most lucrative licences globally.
The ride-hailing app’s work with Flint Global forms part of its efforts to convince regulators that it is a responsible operator, despite opposition from licensed taxi drivers’ representatives and a number of other powerful lobbying groups.
Uber’s new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, travelled to London earlier this month for talks with TfL, with both sides describing their discussion as “constructive”.
The first hearing in the appeal process, which is likely to stretch well into 2018, is scheduled to be held in December.
Video: More than half a million sign petition supporting Uber
The ban on Uber has sparked a furious backlash from many Londoners, with more than 700,000 people signing a petition to allow the company to keep operating despite its failure to report a string of criminal offences perpetrated by its drivers.
Uber now has about 40,000 drivers in London?, and is used by about 3.5 million customers, but its rise has sparked the most significant backlash to date against a major champion of the “gig economy”.
Losing its ability to operate in London could threaten its ability to preserve its licences in other cities around the world, where it has also come under intense regulatory pressure.
In turn, that would affect Uber’s chances of attaining a premium valuation in a stock market flotation that Mr Khosrowshahi has indicated is likely within 18 months.
Since TfL’s decision to ban the company, a number of senior executives including Jo Bertram, Uber’s northern Europe chief, and European head of policy Christopher Burghardt have resigned.