Uber is hiring a veteran banker to chair its UK business as it fights to keep its London licence

Laurel Powers Freeling uberUberLaurel Powers-Freeling.

LONDON — Uber is hiring banker and director Laurel Powers-Freeling as the first chair for its UK business, as it battles to retain its licence in the British capital.

Powers-Freeling has previously worked as a senior advisor to the Bank of England and as chief executive at Marks & Spencer Money, as well as a number of other directorships and advisory roles.

In a statement issued on Friday, she said: “This is an exciting time to be joining Uber as its first non-executive Chair in the UK. Uber is transforming how people get around and as a business it is also undergoing an important period of change. I look forward to working with the UK business to help them manage and implement that change.”

The appointment — the first time Uber has hired an independent non-executive chair in the UK — comes at a pivotal time for ride-hailing company in Britain. In September, London transport regulator TfL refused to renew Uber’s licence to operate in the British capital, saying it is not “fit and proper” to hold one. The Californian company is appealing the decision, and will continue to operate while it does so.

It’s also appealing a decision over the legal status of its drivers in the UK, has been criticised over sexual assaults, has accused of sex discrimination, and its top executive in London, Jo Bertram, recently left the company.

Uber has been looking to appoint a non-executive chair since August, a spokesperson said.

Tom Elvidge, Uber’s interim general manager in the UK, said in a statement: “We’re delighted to announce Laurel Powers-Freeling as our first independent Chair. Laurel brings with her a wide range of experience in business and public service from Marks & Spencer to the Bank of England. With this new position Laurel will help us with the next phase of changes we want to make to our UK business. As our new global CEO has said, we’re determined to learn from the mistakes of the past and make things right.”

Powers-Freeling has also been chair for the National Joint Registry for the UK Department of Health and the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, and worked or held directorships for Lloyds TSB, Prudential, and Atom Bank.

Sky News first reported Uber was looking to hire her on Thursday.

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