David Sutton is looking for the worst possible news about Uber Technologies. An accident in San Francisco, an assault in Boston: Such bad tidings for Uber are ammunition for Sutton, a 48-year-old publicist. “Uber is a creep magnet,” Sutton says in a news release sent to U.S. local and national media outlets in February.
Sutton is a hired gun in the dirty war that’s broken out between old-line taxi companies and Uber, the ride-share phenom. His client, a powerful trade association, represents 1,000 taxi and limousine firms worldwide. These firms want to kill the young juggernaut—or at least buy themselves enough time to develop rival car-hailing apps.
Probably no amount of media spin will win this one for Big Taxi. Uber is a textbook example of what happens when an aggressive newcomer enters a business that’s gone unchallenged for decades. But compared with the hubbub about Uber—its tactics, its safety, its pricing, its legality, and, most of all, its $40 billion valuation—Big Taxi has been operating in stealth mode.