Exodus Of Major Clients At Bell Pottinger

Dan Kitwood  Getty Images

Dan Kitwood Getty Images

After being suspended from the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) on Tuesday as a result of an investigation into its questionable work on an advertising campaign that stoked racial tensions throughout South Africa for Oakbay Capital, Bell Pottinger began to lose major clients on Wednesday.

Bell Pottinger was being paid £100,000 a month by Oakbay.

The bank, which previously enlisted Bell Pottinger in London for short-term media engagement campaigns, confirmed that it has stopped working with the firm.

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The mid-tier accountancy firm will advise troubled Bell Pottinger on the way forward, including on a potential sale, as the public relations firm continues to haemorrhage clients.

The powerful industry regulator, with a membership of over 20,000 PR firms, found that its Professional Practices Committee was unanimous in its view that the Professional Charter and Codes of Conduct had been breached, and recommended to the PRCA Board of Management that Bell Pottinger's membership be terminated.

In response to the decision, Bell Pottinger said it "accepts that there are lessons to be learned but disputes the basis on which the ruling was made" and said that it would "refocus on delivering outstanding work for our clients and looking after our people". According to Reuters, Bell Pottinger's second largest shareholder, wrote off its investment after failing to sell its £5m stake in the business.

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TalkTalk, one of the UK's biggest broadband operators, had a contract with Bell Pottinger which ended earlier this year.

Bell Pottinger declined to comment. They are Richemont, the Swiss luxury company headed by South African businessman Johann Rupert; Investec, the South African investment group; and Acacia, which owns goldmines in Tanzania.

Chime, co-owned by USA 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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Lord Timothy Bell, who resigned last summer from the company he co-founded, told Newsnight he thought it was "almost certain" Bell Pottinger would not survive the scandal.

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