Some observers may be surprised Bell Pottinger has not faced industry censure and financial ruin for its previous activities.
Some #PaxEx clients of public relations firm Bell Pottinger are severing ties with the company, which stands accused of stirring up racial hatred in South Africa.
Britain’s Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) trade body expelled Bell Pottinger on Tuesday over a campaign deemed “likely to inflame racial discord”.
Bell Pottinger’s battered and bruised employees, who all stand to lose their jobs, may find some consolation in being former members of the first PR firm – maybe – to bring down a government, albeit unintentionally.
The scramble to find a buyer or other forms of finance is in part because of a US$6.6 million debt partly built up over payouts to Lord Bell, the co-founder, who departed in 2016, and other top staff whose stakes in the company have been bought out.
Earlier this week, co-founder Timothy Bell, who left the firm previous year, told BBC’s Newsnight programme that he thought the agency is unlikely to survive.
Reputational damage is not just limited to Bell Pottinger, in a House of Lord’s debate several members suggested the scandal reflected badly on United Kingdom businesses and organisations operating in South Africa.
Bell Pottinger, or Klareco as it will be, has offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, KL and Yangon, and clients throughout the region.
“White monopoly capital” was one of the slogans Bell Pottinger used on behalf of Oakbay Capital, an investment holding company run by the Indian Gupta family.
Chief Executive James Henderson resigned on Sunday, although maintains he was not directly involved in the controversial messaging campaign and was misled by the executives in charge of the account. It is not clear if the carrier is still working with Bell Pottinger.
Earlier this week, the PRCA said that it had “imposed its most serious sanctions on Bell Pottinger”. “I’m really sad to see the mess he created as chief executive”, he said.
“It is disturbing that the incitement of a civil war in South Africa is identified as a “key moment” by a Bell Pottinger adviser”.
“I do want to emphasise this company has always held itself to the highest standards and we have turned clients away that didn’t fit with our values”. Now, Bell Pottinger’s Asian arm has announced its disaffiliation with the public relations firms, including a total overhaul of its brand name and visual identity.