Here is the gossip we heard at Uber's Christmas party in London, where it faces an imminent ban
- Uber held its annual company holiday party Wednesday night, and Business Insider went along to say hello.
- Uber faces an imminent ban on operating in London.
- Insiders at the party don't think the ban will happen anytime soon.
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Uber's London headquarters held its annual company holiday drinks-'n'-canapes party Wednesday night at the Groucho Club in Soho, and Business Insider went along to say hello.
Needless to say, there was one existential question hanging over the get-together: Will Uber escape the November 25 ruling barring it from operating in the city?
The answer we heard was "yes, probably."
The ban on Uber operating in London - one of its biggest revenue sources - is set to come into force on or about December 16.
Here is what Business Insider staffers learned while mingling with management and drinking free Champagne:
- Uber's legal team is confident it will win an appeal of the ban. The appeal is expected to be filed in a magistrates court within the next few days.
- The appeal will put the ban on hold for months, as the magistrates ruling can also be appealed to higher courts.
- One likely argument Uber will make is that a ban of the entire company from the entire city is a disproportionate response given the "crime": The ban was imposed because 14 drivers out of 45,000 had falsified their identities. Uber could argue that it might regain its "fit and proper" status by taking measures against those drivers and closing the loophole that allowed their fraud.
- Jamie Heywood, the regional general manager for the UK and Europe, appeared unruffled by the ban, even though it pushed Uber stock down 6% on the day it was announced.
- Mayor Sadiq Khan is playing a game, Uber insiders speculate. Khan has to show he is supportive of the driver unions that have campaigned against Uber and helped persuade the transport regulator, Transport for London, to ban the service. But he is up for reelection in 2020 and is probably afraid of a backlash from Uber's 3.5 million city users if Uber is actually banned. So while Khan officially supports the ban, unofficially he is probably hoping some kind of compromise will allow Uber to continue operating.
- Uber is thus hoping the stars will align behind the idea that a complete ban is an extreme response and that a more graduated approach would be a better solution.
- The prime minister's senior special adviser, Sheridan Westlake, was in attendance. Last year, the cabinet member Matt Hancock attended. Uber in London has always been politically well-connected to the Conservative Party, as evidenced by ...
- ... the presence of Uber London comms chief Lottie Dominiczak. She was once named in a ranking of Westminster power couples by Politico. Her husband works for Lynton Crosby's CTF Partners, the consultancy that has advised the Conservative Party on the election campaigns of the prime ministers David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson. She also used to work for the former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith's social-policy think tank, the Centre for Social Justice.
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