UK PR juggernaut Bell Pottinger might collapse next week.
It’s on the back of the firm’s role in stirring up racial tension in South Africa.
It was part of a campaign for a wealthy family aimed at white business competitors. The family, the Guptas, are closely associated with South African President Jacob Zuma.
But it’s no surprise.
Aside from conglomerates, Bell Pottinger is known as the “go to” PR solution for dictators, dubious business interests and governments with atrocious human rights records.
Some are surprised that it’s taken this long for the firm’s practices to be finally called out.
But they have, big time.
Reaction to the South African campaign was swift.
They were thrown out of a major UK PR trade body.
Big clients like HSBC, EY and Centrica walked. Others, like TalkTalk and Bank of Ireland, are now “reviewing” their relationships.
Senior staff are thinking of jumping ship too. The CEO has already resigned.
And one of its shareholders, knowing they’d be difficult to sell, returned their shares without being compensated.
Ditching the parents
Smelling death, the firm’s Asian arm severed relations and rebranded itself.
With all of these departures, the liabilities are piling up, adding to the firm’s already significant debt mound. Its best hope of survival is a quick sale, facilitated by entering administration.
But maybe too much damage has been done: even one of the founders thinks “the end is near.”