Bell Pottinger’s days may be numbered. The PR company's future looks incredibly bleak as more clients, including tobacco firm Imperial Brands, review their relationship with the company.
It is thought the UK, headquartered firm could go into administration in a matter of weeks following the revelations of its clandestine campaign to stir up racial tension within South Africa.
Reports suggest the PR agency has approached accountants BDO to find a buyer in an effort to stave off closure but the clock is ticking.
BDO has been in touch with prospective buyers but it may prove a tall order to find a suitor given the extensive damage to the Bell Pottinger brand due to the South African scandal.
Bad for UK business
Reputational damage is not just limited to Bell Pottinger, in a House of Lord’s debate several members suggested the scandal reflected badly on UK businesses and organisations operating in South Africa.
It was stressed that the British High Commission in Pretoria had no knowledge of Bell Pottinger’s campaign.
Lord Hain, the South African-born former UK foreign office minister, suggested that all Bell Pottinger’s contracts with public service operations be investigated.
Fall from grace
The fall from grace of Bell Pottinger shows just how swift brand and reputational damage can be. The fact that it is a PR company, usually hired to rebuild and develop positive brand identity is doubly ironic.
Bell Pottinger was founded by Tim Bell (now Lord Bell) and Piers Pottinger back in 1987. Lord Bell came to prominence as Margaret Thatcher’s trusted and highly-prized PR adviser.
It appears now that after decades as a high-profile, global PR name, the Bell Pottinger brand may disappear.