Bell Pottinger 'faces collapse' as investors rush for exit

Randolph Lopez
September 7, 2017

In a damning statement, the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) said on Tuesday that Bell Pottinger - whose clients range from multinational businesses to governments, public sector organisations, entrepreneurs and some of the world's richest individuals - had "brought the PR and communications industry into disrepute" with a campaign in South Africa which was accused of stirring up racial tensions.

The PRCA launched an investigation into Bell Pottinger following a complaint from South Africa's main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA).

A screengrab of the protected British public relations firm Bell Pottinger Twitter page. "The management focus is on keeping people as calm as they can". This was the same month that the PR firm's chief executive, James Henderson, offered an "unequivocable and absolute" apology for an "inappropriate and offensive" social media campaign.

Chime Communications, a joint-venture between Providence Equity Partners and advertising juggernaut WPP, returned its 27% stake in Bell Pottinger without compensation in August before the handing down of the verdict and now HSBC, Carillion, Richemont, and Investec have said they will no longer do business with the firm.

"For it to be done in South Africa, a country which has become an global beacon of hope for its progress towards racial reconciliation, is a matter of profound regret and in no way reflects the values of Bell Pottinger", it said.

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Veteran spin doctor Chris Vick told HuffPostSA on Tuesday Bell Pottinger is "as good as dead" and shouldn't bother attempting to recover.

In a statement, Bell Pottinger said it accepted there were lessons to be learned from its South Africa campaign but disputed "the basis on which the (PRCA) ruling was made".

TalkTalk, one of the UK's biggest broadband operators, had a contract with the agency that ended this year.

Waitrose, which prides itself on its ethical stance and uses Bell Pottinger, would not say whether it will continue to employ the embattled agency.

Since then, a number of clients - including global bank HSBC, South African investment bank Investec, mining company Acacia and construction company Carillion - have walked away. "We don't comment on specific supplier relationships", said a spokeswoman, who refused to elaborate further. Another shareholder - Mark Smith - remains in place as chairman, but a number of senior figures have departed the agency in recent days, including corporate and financial head John Sunnucks - one of Bell Pottinger's key rainmakers.

Other reports by GlobalViralNews

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