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Bell Pottinger Is As Good As Dead... And It's 'Sweet Revenge', Says Chris Vick

But the fight isn't over as Bell Pottinger's 'ugly stepchildren' are still at play, says the veteran spin doctor.

05/09/2017 12:30 SAST | Updated 05/09/2017 16:11 SAST

Disgraced British PR firm Bell Pottinger have been the "champions of dirty tricks" in the PR industry worldwide and "got what they deserved", veteran South African spin doctor Chris Vick told HuffPost SA on Tuesday.

"I think it's sweet revenge and a good thing for people in my business that this has happened because the more we can whittle out the people who run covert operations and do underhand tactics and put people's lives at risk, the better it is for all of us," he said.

The notorious PR firm was expelled from the United Kingdom's Public Relations and Communications Agency with immediate effect on Monday following its controversial campaign for the Gupta family in South Africa. The expulsion was a unanimous decision of the PRCA board and committee, which lambasted Bell Pottinger for its unethical campaign and for bringing the British public relations industry into disrepute.

In a statement provided to HuffPost SA on Tuesday, the firm acknowledged the PRCA ruling and "accepts that there are lessons to be learned" but it disputed the basis on which the ruling was made.

Vick, however, said Bell Pottinger is "as good as dead" and the business should be closed. "Once you are the story in the PR industry, you should just go home," he said.

"There is no way you can spin this story. It's 'unspinnable'. They've done atrocious things and the PRCA has said they've never seen anything as bad as this," Vick insisted. "If you're the benchmark of the worst, you go home. You don't try and recover."

'Ugly stepchildren still at play'
Vick says the fight is not over and South Africans now need to ask what will happen to their handlers in the background. "It takes two to commit a crime of this nature," Vick said, referring to the president's son Duduzane Zuma and the Gupta family.

"Bell Pottinger says they no longer work in South Africa, but their ugly stepchildren like BLF and the Decolonisation Foundation are still at play," he remarked.

One of the key issues to remember about #bellpottinger is that they were hired by a private company to do work for political organizations

— Chris Vick (@chrisvick3) September 4, 2017

Rooting out the truth about the South African end of Bell Pottinger's operation is an important step moving forward, he said. This requires full disclosure about its dealings with Duduzane and the Guptas, in particular the brief(s) given by them to the firm.

"What was their mandate? When [Bell Pottinger] says they were misled, who misled them and what did they say to them? Did they channel money to front organisations like Black First Land First (BLF) and the Decolonisation Foundation? This level of disclosure will enable us to understand what happened in South Africa and prevent it from happening again," he said.

'Our eyes are now open'
South Africans now have their eyes open, he said, and cautioned against someone trying the same thing again in South Africa. Vick emphasised that while the public is now aware of the mechanics of the firm's PR campaign, the public does not yet know enough about what happened on the ground in South Africa.

In the interim, Vick said they [Bell Pottinger] should "go play golf, drink a gin 'n tonic, and reflect on what they've done and keep saying sorry for the rest of their lives".