'There is a high cost to a bad reputation,' Uber's CEO warns employees after being banned in London

Dara khosrowshahiYouTube/CNBCDara Khosrowshahi

It’s only been a few weeks since Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi started on the job, and he’s already stepped into snake pit full of problems.

In an email to the troops on Friday, he took the mea-culpa approach for the first big problem to hit the ride-hailing company since he took the reins: getting banned from London.

London’s transportation regulator on Friday said it would not renew Uber’s licence to operate in the city, citing a a long list of bad behaviour and shortcomings with its practices. Uber has responded by saying it believes those reasons are basically bogus.

But in an email to the troops on Friday, Khosrowshahi said the company must take a hard look in the mirror.

In the email, which first tweeted by Bloomberg’s Eric Newcomer and verified by Business Insider., Khosrowshahi wrote (emphasis ours):

“While the impulse may be to say that this is unfair, one of the lessons I’ve learned over time is that change comes from self-reflection. So it’s worth examining how we got here. The truth is there is a high cost to a bad reputation.

He went onto to say that he didn’t think Uber was guilty of doing all the things in London that Transport of London alleged. For instance, Uber insists it never used its controversial Greyball software to evade British regulators, although it may have used the software in London for other, legit reasons.

He closed his email with a pep talk: “Going forward, it’s critical that we act with integrity in everything we do.”

Attitude reset

If Khosrowshahi is able to reset the company’s mentality and response to crises, it would mark a big shift in how Uber operates and could wipe away the brash reputation the company acquired under the leadership of cofounder Travis Kalanick, who resigned in June.

As Business Insider UK editor-in-chief Jim Edwards points out, Uber has “many, many, many faults.” “From its failure to report sexual assaults by drivers, to its failure to add tipping to the app until just a few weeks ago, and its failure to guarantee drivers at least minimum wage.”

But Edwards’ notes that banning Uber from London is not likely to sit well with residents and workers who have come to depend on its service to get across the sprawling city.

In the meantime, Khosrowshahi, the former CEO of Expedia, must still wade through the consequences of the past. That includes multiple US federal probes, lawsuits all over the world over how it pays drivers, safety allegations, the lawsuit with Waymo over how it obtained its self-driving car tech, and the need to completely rebuild the top executive ranks.

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