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Uber’s Northern Europe chief departs after London license loss

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Image Credits: Carl Court

Uber’s regional general manager for Northern Europe, Jo Bertram, is leaving the company. The news was reported earlier by Reuters and confirmed by an Uber spokesman who forwarded the departure email sent by Bertram and a reply from Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber’s head of EMEA.

Uber’s London general manager Tom Elvidge will take over as acting UK general manager while Uber goes through its usual hiring process, according to Gore-Coty’s email.

Bertram’s departure comes just over a week after Uber lost its license to operate in London. On September 22 the city’s regulator, TfL, announced it would not be renewing Uber’s private hire vehicle license. Uber is appealing the decision and can continue to operate in London during this process.

New CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will be in London on Tuesday to meet with the city’s transport commissioner. TfL said Uber had requested the meeting and London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, had asked it to meet with him.

TfL has said Uber is not a “fit and proper” operator, listing several reasons for remove licensing — including the company’s approach to reporting serious crimes by drivers using its platform, and its use of proprietary software developed internally to help it evade regulatory oversight (although Uber has claimed it has not used the ‘Greyball’ program in London for that specific purpose).

Given the company’s current crisis in Europe Bertram’s departure has the look of an attempt to appease the regulator with a high profile scalp. Although her departure email does not specifically mention the loss of license in London, nor address any of the concerns raised by TfL. Nor indeed does Gore-Coty’s email.

And given London is the city where Uber has had major problems with its UK business it might raise eyebrows it’s handing the reins (even if only temporarily) to its London general manager — who, according to LinkedIn, has been overseeing operations in the city since September 2015.

Instead, the closest mention Uber’s London licensing problems get from Bertram is when she writes: “Given some of our current challenges, I’m also convinced that now is the right time to have a change of face, and to hand over to someone who will be here for the long haul and take us into the next phase.”

She also implies her departure was already in train prior to the regulator’s announcement, saying she “would like to have announced my move in smoother circumstances”, and writing that she’s leaving for “an exciting new opportunity”. And we understand she had been intending to depart for some time, having clocked up four years with the company.

The email does not specify exactly what job she’s leaving to take up.

A petition set up by Uber’s Elvidge and promoted by the company, including by emailing its users, has garnered more than 840,000 signatures, though it’s not clear whether all those are Uber users who live in London.

According to a new YouGov poll, fewer than one in three Londoners think TfL’s decision to strip the company of licensing was the wrong one.

The company was also in court this week seeking to appeal a UK employment tribunal decision that judged a group of Uber drivers to be workers, rather than self-employed contractors as Uber claims. If it loses the appeal it could face many more legal challenges from drivers on their employment status.

Here are the two emails that Uber has released to the media:

Email from Jo Bertram, Regional General Manager for Northern Europe

Subject Line: Thank you for a brilliant journey

As many of you have just heard at our All Hands meeting, I’ve decided to move on to something new and exciting. I’m leaving Uber with great memories, friendships and many amazing experiences, and I’ll never forget the great things that we’ve achieved together as a team.

When I showed up on my first day four years ago, at our tiny serviced office in Baker Street, I quickly realised that this company was special – not only in its ambitions, but also in the way we all pulled together. Whether responding to all sorts of customer questions, buying our own laptops, or distributing mobile phones to our early partner drivers, we all had to roll up our sleeves and figure out how to build a business. I had wanted to experience the pace and craziness of life at a start-up, and Uber certainly delivered!

I’m tremendously lucky to have spent the last four years with you, and it has been breathtaking to see the team grow so quickly. When I joined as General Manager for London, we had just three team members in the city and a few hundred drivers. Together, we then rolled out our services to more than 40 towns and cities across the United Kingdom, where we now serve almost 5 million riders and more than 50,000 drivers.

Since I became Regional General Manager for Northern Europe, I’ve been proud to lead what is now a team of 300 people across 10 countries. I’ve learned a lot during this rapid expansion and, in every market we entered, you could quickly see the impact we had on the way people travelled and lived their lives.

While we often talk about the growth we’ve seen, we can also be proud of the progress our team has made in improving the service for both drivers and riders. Though there’s always more to be done, we’ve taken big strides for a young company. From the introduction of discounted illness and injury cover for drivers, to the roll out of ACCESS for wheelchair users and most recently our Clean Air Plan, there are many initiatives we can be proud of. I know there are many more exciting things to come.

Over the course of this year, I’ve been reflecting on these incredible last four years and what might come next for me. I’ve also discussed this with Pierre and I’m proud that we’ve built this business into more than we ever thought possible. And I’ve realised that taking a nascent company and helping it scale into a major international operation is what I’ve enjoyed most. An exciting new opportunity has arisen that will allow me to apply what I’ve learnt here and I’ll be able to share more details with you soon.

Given some of our current challenges, I’m also convinced that now is the right time to have a change of face, and to hand over to someone who will be here for the long haul and take us into the next phase.

While I would like to have announced my move in smoother circumstances, I’m proud of the team we’ve built here and am very confident in their abilities to lead the business into the next chapter. I’ll work with you in the coming weeks on the best possible transition.

I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned in the last four years. This company and its people will always have a very special place in my heart.

Jo

 

Reply from Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Head of EMEA

As I just told everyone at the All Hands meeting, we’re all really sad to be losing such a remarkable colleague and friend.

Jo is certainly one the most impressive people I’ve had the pleasure to work with and the success of our business in Northern Europe is in large part down to her leadership. The passion, energy and commitment she puts into her work has made her an inspiring role model and a fantastic leader since she joined Uber four years ago.

Jo will remain with us over the next few weeks in order to help with a smooth transition, and I look forward to working closely with the excellent team she leaves behind.

Tom Elvidge will now report into me and be our acting UK GM while we undergo an internal and external hiring process for that role. Niek Van Leeuwen, GM for the Nordics, Baltics & Benelux, will report into me.

On behalf of everyone at Uber, I wish Jo all the best for her exciting new role and the next stage of her career.

Thanks so much for your contribution over the years, Jo!

Pierre

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