Uber’s regional general manager for Northern Europe, Jo Bertram, has left 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. Responding to her departure, Gore-Coty said: “Jo is certainly one of 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.”
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 licence to operate in London. On September 22 the city’s regulator, TfL, announced it would not be renewing Uber’s private hire vehicle licence. Uber is appealing the decision and can continue to operate in London during this process.
New CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was in London recently to meet with the the TfL commissioner, Mike Brown. The pair were expected to discuss commitments Uber can make if it wants to continue operating.
Sources familiar with the contact between Uber and TfL said the meeting was not likely to yield any immediate results, with talks likely to continue over months.
TfL said Uber had requested the meeting and London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, had asked it to meet with him.
TfL had said Uber is not a “fit and proper” operator, listing several reasons for refusing to relicense.
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 licence 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 the pipeline prior to the regulator’s announce-
ment, 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 has also been in court 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.