Uber has hired a headhunting firm to find it a prestigious new chairperson in the U.K., where it is facing major regulatory problems.
Originally reported by Sky News but also confirmed by Fortune‘s sources, Uber has retained The Inzito Partnership to find it an independent chairman. The search was already underway before London declined to renew Uber’s operational license, but is now more urgent.
Transport for London (TfL), the local regulator, moved against Uber because it was not “fit and proper” to run private-hire car services in the capital. It gave many reasons, from insufficient vetting of drivers and inadequate reporting of criminal offences committed by those drivers, to the “Greyball software” the company used to evade regulatory scrutiny.
The license expires Saturday, but Uber will be able to stay operational until it has exhausted the appeal process.
Uber’s response to TfL’s ban has so far been uncharacteristically contrite, with new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi apologizing for the “mistakes we’ve made”—mistakes that occurred under the watch of his predecessor, the combative Travis Kalanick. Khosrowshahi has begged the regulator to reopen talks.
On Tuesday, London mayor and TfL chair Sadiq Khan asked the regulator to agree to those talks. However, he also accused Uber of “acting in an aggressive manner and threatening all sort of things” in its British dealings, and continued to talk scathingly of the attitude of the company’s U.K. management.
Whoever Uber’s new U.K. chair turns out to be, they will have a lot of bridge-building to do. In the meantime, the company has hired top lawyer Thomas de la Mare, along with law firm Hogan Lovells, to lead its appeal against TfL’s decision.
Uber is also appealing an employment tribunal ruling from last year that said it has to give employment benefits to its drivers. It made its case for the appeal at the tribunal this morning. Separately, it emerged Wednesday that TfL officials have again raised the issue of Uber’s tax practices. Uber routes its U.K. transactions through a subsidiary in the Netherlands, meaning that it pays no Value Added Tax in the U.K.. Uber says that VAT is the responsibility of its drivers. However, a High Court ruling last year rejected the company’s own definition of its business model, saying its drivers were workers rather than independent contractors. As such, the ruling implies a VAT obligation on Uber’s part. The company is still appealing that ruling. The U.K. tax authorities have not yet reacted to that ruling.