Bell Pottinger 'faces collapse' as investors rush for exit

07 September, 2017, 02:04 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • An office building containing the London headquarters of the PR company Bell Pottinger is seen behind an entrance to an underground train station in London

Banking giant HSBC, consultancy and accountancy firm EY and lender CYBG, led by former AIB chief executive David Duffy, are among a raft of groups that have dropped Bell Pottinger following the controversy.

Bell Pottinger has been at the centre of a storm since the #GuptaLeaks emerged.

"People are being offered other opportunities".

Some of Bell Pottinger's biggest clients appear to be severing ties with the group, after the industry's trade association earlier this week stripped it of membership following an investigation into the firm's conduct in South Africa.

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In a statement, Bell Pottinger said it accepted there were lessons to be learned, but disputed "the basis on which the ruling was made".

In addition to HSBC, Clydesdale Bank, the construction company Carillion, and United Kingdom broadband operator TalkTalk all revealed on Tuesday that they had stopped working with Bell Pottinger.

Mr Zuma and the Guptas - accused of wielding undue political influence over the South African government - have always denied any wrongdoing in their relations. Zuma's son Duduzane has been a director of several Gupta-owned companies and worked for Oakbay, the business at the centre of the scandal.

We are pleased that the UK's Public Relations Communication Association has taken steps to expel Bell Pottinger from its ranks as a result of the complaint raised by the DA.

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

Waitrose, which prides itself on its ethical stance and uses Bell Pottinger, would not say whether it will continue to employ the embattled agency.

"Due to reasons of confidentiality we do not comment on business matters of this nature", a BDO spokesperson said.

Since then, a number of clients - including global bank HSBC, South African investment bank Investec, mining company Acacia and construction company Carillion - have walked away. Another shareholder - Mark Smith - remains in place as chairman, but a number of senior figures have departed the agency in recent days, including corporate and financial head John Sunnucks - one of Bell Pottinger's key rainmakers.

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Chime, co-owned by United States investment firm Providence Equity Partners and Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP group, gave up trying to sell its 27 per cent holding and is understood to have given the stake to the company's board several weeks ago as the scandal reached boiling point.

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