UberEats boss is latest UK executive to quit

The boss of Uber’s restaurant delivery service in Europe is leaving the company, the latest in a string of executives to quit in the wake of its taxi licence being withdrawn by London regulators.

Sky News has learnt that Jambu Palaniappan, UberEats’ regional general manager for markets including the UK, has resigned to join a venture capital firm.

Mr Palaniappan, who has worked for Uber for more than five years, has led UberEats’ expansion in UK, where the food delivery operation is now present in more than 40 cities.

He also built its ride-sharing business in 60 countries.

In a memo circulated to UberEats staff on Thursday morning, Mr Palaniappan said: “When I joined this company in 2012, Uber was just a small start-up with 75 employees focused primarily on the US.

“While I learned so much about how dynamic and unique cities and countries around the world are, I also learned that technology can be a powerful equaliser, bringing mobility opportunities and economic empowerment from Johannesburg to Cairo to Lahore, and magical food deliver experiences from London to Warsaw and beyond.”

In Europe, UberEats partners with more than 14,000 restaurants, competing in an increasingly aggressive race for market share with the likes of Just Eat and Deliveroo.

Mr Palaniappan’s departure comes as Uber ‎appeals against Transport for London’s verdict that it is not “a fit and proper” holder of a private-hire licence, after Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, accused the company of “failing to play by the rules”,

The company has now hired Laurel Powers-Freeling, a former banker, to chair its UK operations in an effort to persuade regulators that it is responsible company.

Uber’s new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, travelled to London during the autumn 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 next month.

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.

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The company is in the process of raising billions of dollars from an investor group led by Softbank, the Japanese technology group.

An Uber spokesman declined to comment.

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