New Uber CEO apologizes in London for past mistakes

LONDON — The new CEO of Uber apologized for past mistakes on Monday in a public attempt to show London authorities that the company, known for aggressive tactics, is willing to change to retain its right to operate in the city.

Days after London’s transport authorities decided not to renew Uber’s license to operate, citing a lack of corporate responsibility, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi acknowledged that the company “has got things wrong” during its global expansion.

Uber will appeal the decision of London’s transport authority but will do so “with the knowledge that we must also change,” he said in an open letter to Londoners published by the Evening Standard newspaper.

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

Mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed Khosrowshahi’s apology and said he was pleased to see the company acknowledge the issues it faced in London. Transport for London said last week it wouldn’t renew Uber’s license when it expires Sept. 30. Uber can continue operating while it pursues an appeal.

“Even though there is a legal process in place, I have asked TfL to make themselves available to meet with him,” Khan said of Khosrowshahi.

Uber has struggled with a series of scandals this year, ranging from accusations of sexism to suggestions that it used software to hide information from regulators. Khosrowshahi took over as CEO this month after co-founder Travis Kalanick was ousted following complaints about his management style.

Transport for London said Friday that it wouldn’t renew Uber’s license because the company isn’t “fit and proper” to operate in the city, where it has 3.5 million users and 40,000 drivers. Uber didn’t report serious criminal offences, including a sexual assault, to London police, authorities said, and failed to conduct proper background checks on its drivers. The regulator also cited Uber’s use of a phony app to deceive regulators in the U.S.

Some Uber supporters say the critique is a smokescreen for a politically motivated decision that was designed to appease London taxi drivers, not protect public safety. Uber has long been a target of cab drivers who complain that Uber and its drivers don’t have to comply with the same licensing standards, giving the ride-hailing service an unfair advantage.

Khosrowshahi’s apologetic letter comes after days of tense media exchanges between Uber representatives and Khan, who said any operator of taxi services in the city “needs to play by the rules” and that people angry about the decision should blame the ride-hailing company.

It’s the first crisis for Khosrowshahi, an executive with a reputation for high ethical standards who was hired last month from travel booking site Expedia. The row interrupted Khosrowshahi’s orientation at Uber, where he spent his first few weeks riding with drivers and getting to know the company.

In a note to employees after Friday’s decision, Khosrowshahi said he disagreed with the decision made by Transport for London, and it would be tempting to call it unfair. But he also said that Uber must look at how it got into the mess.

“The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation,” he wrote. “Going forward, it’s critical that we act with integrity in everything we do, and learn how to be a better partner to every city we operate in.”

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