Bank of Ireland reviews Bell Pottinger contract

07 September, 2017, 02:05 | Author: Irene Delgado
  • Reuters

After being booted as a member of the UK's Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) and with its CEO having resigned, Bell Pottinger confirmed that it has put itself up for sale. Instead, it wrote off the holding and handed it back.

Britain's biggest bank, HSBC, which has weathered its own public relations disaster after its Swiss arm helped clients evade tax, also severed ties.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has alleged that Bell Pottinger stoked racial hatred in South Africa in the work they did for the Gupta family and Duduzane Zuma, President Jacob Zuma's son.

In a busy day of news for the firm, after chief executive James Henderson quit in light of the PRCA sanctions on Monday, the man who many had tapped to take his spot, John Sunnucks, the head of Bell Pottinger's financial PR division tendered his immediately effective resignation on Tuesday evening.

Bell Pottinger's second largest shareholder Chime - co-owned by a United States investment firm Providence Equity Partners and Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP Group - and is also reported to have walked away from the firm and abandoned a plan to sell its 27 percent stake, according to the BBC.

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The PRCA, which represents 400 businesses and 20,000 individuals, said the firm had purposely played on frayed race relations. It stripped the firm of membership and the group will not be eligible to reapply for corporate membership for a minimum period of five years.

The PR firm, founded in 1987, said it accepted there were lessons to be learned, but disputed the basis on which the ruling was made. According to an email published in South African media, Bell Pottinger said the campaign needed to stress the continued "existence of economic apartheid". We find it inconceivable that an entire nation learnt of how Bell Pottinger was able to engineer a misleading and deceitful PR campaign that would further the aims of a private family (the Guptas) to benefit from state capture, while senior management were seemingly oblivious to this conduct for so long.

And in an interview with the BBC yesterday, Lord Bell said that he thought it unlikely that the firm would survive. "I think the decline is terminal".

"[Clydesdale] and its associated brands no longer work with Bell Pottinger", said a spokesman for the bank.

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