Af­ter South African Scan­dal, Bell Pot­tinger chief quits, firm un­likely to sur­vive

ArabAd - - PEOPLE -

The chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bell Pot­tinger, James Hen­der­son, has for­mally re­signed amid a scan­dal at the public re­la­tions firm over its racially di­vi­sive cam­paign for the wealthy and con­tro­ver­sial Gupta fam­ily in South Africa.

The chief ex­ec­u­tive of nearly five years who owns 40 per cent of the agency said in ref­er­ence to the firm’s work with Oak­bay Cap­i­tal: “I feel deeply let down by the col­leagues who mis­led me. How­ever, I think it is im­por­tant I take proper ac­count­abil­ity for what has hap­pened.”

While Hen­der­son de­nied any ini­ti­a­tion or in­volve­ment in the Oak­bay ac­count, he said he ac­cepts that as chief ex­ec­u­tive, he has “ul­ti­mate ex­ec­u­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity for Bell Pot­tinger”.

“I have also striven to put the best in­ter­ests of Bell Pot­tinger and its bril­liant staff first, and it is for that rea­son that I am step­ping down to­day.”

Bell Pot­tinger was hired by Gupta-owned Oak­bay Cap­i­tal last year to im­prove the rep­u­ta­tion of the bil­lion­aire fam­ily, which stands ac­cused of ex­ploit­ing its re­la­tion­ship with South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma for pri­vate gain.

Oak­bay was pay­ing Bell Pot­tinger £100,000 a month for its lobby and PR ad­vice. The firm can­celled the con­tract with Oak­bay in April.

Bell Pot­tinger sub­se­quently lost sev­eral of its big­gest clients. It was also ex­pelled from trade body the Public Re­la­tions and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions As­so­ci­a­tion (PRCA).

Speak­ing on the BBC’S Newsnight pro­gram re­cently, former CEO Tim Bell said the com­pany would “al­most cer­tainly” not be able to sur­vive the scan­dal.

Bell re­signed from his agency in Au­gust 2016 partly due to “the Gupta ac­count,” he said on Newsnight. Bell Pot­tinger has pre­vi­ously worked for the Pinochet Foun­da­tion, Syria’s first lady Asma al-as­sad and FW de Klerk.

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