Bell Pottinger Middle East 'strong' despite Oakbay furore

Regional business claims it refused to assist on the controversial UK account
Bell Pottinger’s founder Lord Tim Bell told BBC's Newsnight the PRCA explusion “almost certainly” signalled the end for the firm.
By Sarah Townsend
Tue 05 Sep 2017 03:29 PM

The Middle East offshoot of Bell Pottinger has insisted its regional business is robust in the wake of the PR firm’s expulsion from a UK trade body on Sunday.

The Public Relations and Communications Associations (PRCA) expelled the UK branch of Bell Pottinger over a controversial campaign in South Africa that was found “likely to inflame racial discord”.

The campaign was carried out on behalf of Oakbay Capital, a company run by the wealthy Gupta family, who are accused of wielding undue influence in the South African government.

The campaign included the phrase “white monopoly capital”, prompting strong criticism from South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA).

The DA accused Bell Pottinger of a “hateful and divisive campaign to divide South Africa along the lines of race”.

Bell Pottinger Middle East sought to distance itself from the controversy in an emailed statement to Arabian Business on Tuesday, insisting it had rejected the opportunity to work on the Oakbay account.

It also said its business was “strong” despite the firm’s founder Lord Tim Bell telling BBC Newsnight the PRCA explusion “almost certainly” signalled the end for the firm.

A spokesman for the Middle East office of Bell Pottinger said: “Let’s be very clear about this. At no point did Bell Pottinger Middle East ever work for the Gupta family or on the Oakbay account.

“This particular client was managed out of London. In fact, the opportunity to assist on the Oakbay account was flatly rejected by Bell Pottinger Middle East.”

The spokesman added: “Our business in the region remains strong and we continue to deliver exceptional work on behalf of our clients.”

Tim Bell told Newsnight on Monday: “I think [Bell Pottinger] probably is getting near the end, you can try and rescue it but it won't be very successful.

“I don’t take any responsibility...I resigned from the company in August last year, I published my resignation and I said one of the reasons I was leaving was because of the Gupta account.”

Bell Pottinger CEO James Henderson resigned over the campaign on Sunday, saying there were “warning signs I should have heeded”.

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