Bell Pottinger's British arm has collapsed after the global public relations agency's clients deserted it over a racially-charged political campaign it ran in South Africa. As David Pollard reports, after representing many controversial clients it crumpled following a scandal of its own making.
After its links with UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, Bell Pottinger was the PR firm for illustrious, sometimes controversial figures. But that firm consigned, it seems, to history. Its UK arm going into administration - after running a campaign in South Africa that sought to stir up racial tension. Its clients there: the powerful Gupta family, trying to drum up support for President Jacob Zuma. Bell Pottinger unable to stop others clients leaving amid the condemnation that ensued. (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) DARREN SINDEN, MARKET ANALYST, PEPPERSTONE, SAYING: "If you're in the PR business it's all about your credibility and your ability to deliver a story on behalf of your clients. And for that story to be believed by the wider world. And if you resort to the tactics that they did in the areas that they have, I'm afraid you lose that credibility and therefore it's not surprising that the business would fold." Accountants BDO say the collapse will result in redundancies.... Remaining clients to be transferred to other firms. Its foreign subsidiaries will continue to trade. But in the UK, the level of financial losses, they say, left 'no option' but administration. The company unable to pull itself out of a tailspin - or find a buyer to try. SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) CITY INDEX MARKET ANALYST, KEN ODELUGA, SAYING: "Had they gone into overdrive and made it absolutely clear that ... the main protagonists had been removed and there was absolutely no risk of it reoccurring and otherwise shown a great deal of contrition, I don't necessarily think that we absolutely needed to see the company pay for its mistake with its existence." But like another of its more controversial clients, Oscar Pistorius, Bell Pottinger - in the UK at least - has come to the end of the track. An iconic public relations firm that couldn't, it seems, handle its own PR.