Fraser Robinson, who led Uber’s $3.5bn investment deal with Saudi Arabia last year, will step down this month from his role as head of business development in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He will continue working with Uber as an adviser, according to a company-wide email obtained by the Financial Times.
There have been several high-profile departures from Uber’s European executive team recently, including European policy head Christopher Burghardt, and UK head Jo Bertram, who both left in October. The exit of Mr Robinson marks a changing of the guard for the group’s business development team, at a time when Uber is moving on from start-up mode and trying to change its culture under chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi. During his three years at Uber, Mr Robinson led a series of deals including the merger of Uber’s Russia operations with Yandex Taxi last July. He is close to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and orchestrated its $3.5bn injection into Uber in June 2016, the biggest ever single investment in a start-up at the time. His departure comes as Uber is trying to move more of its senior executives to Amsterdam, its European headquarters and tax base.
Mr Robinson’s desire to stay in London is a key reason for his departure, according to an email sent to Uber staff by David Richter, Uber’s business head. In the email from Mr Richter, he writes that Mr Robinson “spearheaded some of the company’s most transformational deals.” He also praises his “world class ability to build, maintain and commercialise relationships for Uber”. His departure will leave a dent in Uber’s business team at a time when the company is in the middle of a complex deal with a SoftBank-led consortium that could invest between $7bn and $10bn in the company. It is also the latest bad news for Uber in Europe after a number of executive departures.
The San Francisco-based company sees Europe as a key market but has had an uphill battle with regulators, who have often viewed Uber less kindly than their counterparts in the US. In September, London stripped Uber of its operating licence, although the company can still operate while it appeals to regain the licence for this key market. A first hearing in the appeals process is expected next week. European regulators have also raised concerns about Uber’s failure to disclose a 2016 data breach that compromised the personal information of 57m passengers and drivers.
Mr Robinson said in a statement that he was still optimistic about Uber’s future, despite his decision to depart. “Dara [Khosrowshahi] is a force for good and he has the skills, temperament and approach to succeed,” said Mr Robinson. “There are of course regulatory challenges in Europe that will take longer than hoped, but good progress is being made,” he added.