PR firm for sale af­ter race row

Irish Independent - Business Week - - BUSINESSWEEK -

PR firm Bell Pot­tinger has put it­self up for sale af­ter be­ing ex­pelled from the UK’s pub­lic-re­la­tions in­dus­try body and los­ing clients over a racially di­vi­sive so­cial-me­dia cam­paign in South Africa.

The Lon­don-based firm, founded by Mar­garet Thatcher’s me­dia con­sul­tant, has hired fi­nan­cial ad­viser BDO “to look at all op­tions re­gard­ing the fu­ture of the busi­ness,” it said in a state­ment.

Find­ing a buyer may present a chal­lenge to Bell Pot­tinger as ex­ist­ing in­vestors dis­tance them­selves amid con­tro­versy over its work for the Gupta fam­ily in South Africa. Chime Com­mu­ni­ca­tions two weeks ago re­turned its 27pc stake in the busi­ness with­out com­pen­sa­tion, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said. Clients in­clud­ing HSBC and con­struc­tion firm Car­il­lion are among those to stop work­ing with Bell Pot­tinger, and at least one part­ner has left, an­other per­son said.

Co-founder Ti­mothy Bell told BBC’s ‘Newsnight’ pro­gramme that the agency is un­likely to sur­vive. “It’s prob­a­bly near­ing the end,” said Bell, who formed the firm in the 1980s and left last year. “You can try and res­cue it but it won’t be very suc­cess­ful.”

Bell Pot­tinger em­ploys more than 240 peo­ple in of­fices in lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing Bahrain, Kuala Lumpur and Yangon, Myan­mar. They serve clients rang­ing from multi­na­tional busi­nesses to gov­ern­ments and high-pro­file in­di­vid­u­als, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

The com­pany had £33.3m (€27m)) in rev­enue in 2015, and net in­come of £3.3m, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by Bloomberg. (Bloomberg)

An of­fice build­ing con­tain­ing the Lon­don HQ of Bell Pot­tinger

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