POLITICS

Droves Of Bell Pottinger Clients Jump Sinking Ship

HSBC, Clydesdale Bank, TalkTalk and construction company Carillion announced on Tuesday they had dropped the disgraced British PR firm.

06/09/2017 07:47 SAST | Updated 06/09/2017 10:49 SAST

Bell Pottinger's clients are ditching the company in droves following its expulsion from the UK's Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) on Monday.

Banking giant HSBC, Clydesdale Bank, TalkTalk and construction company Carillion are the latest companies to sever ties with the British PR firm in light of devastating findings into its account for the Gupta family, according to The Guardian UK.

Bell Pottinger's second largest shareholder Chime -- co-owned by a US 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.

A number of high-profile staff members are also reported to have tendered their resignations on Tuesday. The most high-profile departure is John Sunnucks, chairperson of the firm's corporate and financial practice. A source told The Guardian UK that a number of senior figures in the company who have directly brought money into the firm have also quit.

"People are being offered other opportunities. The management focus is on keeping people as calm as they can," a senior executive reportedly said.

The firm will 'almost certainly' fail

Bell Pottinger's expulsion comes after the PRCA launched its investigation into Bell Pottinger's work for Oakbay Capital in South Africa on July 5, following a complaint from the DA. The DA alleged that Bell Pottinger had "exploited racial divisions on behalf of the Gupta family".

The powerful industry regulator, with a membership of over 20,000 PR firms, found that its Professional Practices Committee was unanimous in its view that the Professional Charter and Codes of Conduct had been breached, and recommended to the PRCA Board of Management that Bell Pottinger's membership be terminated. The board approved that recommendation unanimously, the report states.

Lord Tim Bell, the firm's co-founder, admitted the company would "almost certainly" fail to recover from the Gupta-linked scandal during an interview on BBC Newsnight on Monday evening.

He distanced himself entirely from the crisis despite admitting to leading early meetings on the Gupta account.

Bell Pottinger 'as good as dead'

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

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 was now aware of the mechanics of the firm's PR campaign, the public did not yet know enough about what happened on the South African side, referring specifically to the Gupta family and Duduzane Zuma.

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