The PR firm Bell Pottinger has formally entered insolvency proceedings in the UK after failing to find a buyer. Accountancy firm BDO was appointed an administrator for the firm with Ashursts acting as its legal adviser. In a statement, BDO said: 'The administrators are now working with the remaining partners and employees to seek an orderly transfer of Bell Pottinger's clients to other firms in order to protect and realise value for creditors.We have taken appropriate steps to preserve the rights Bell Pottinger may have in relation to the failure of the business.'
The company collapsed after a controversial PR campaigne in South Africa that allegedly encouraged racism. The firm received a £100,000-a-month contract from Oakbay, which was a company controlled by the prominent Gupta family. Bell Pottinger was accused of putting together a campaign which diverted attention from links between the Gupta family and South African president Jacob Zuma with a campaign accusing enemies of the president as agents of "white monopoly capital" and leading to an exodus of investors and clients, including construction firm Carillion and HSBC. The firm commissioned an independent report by law firm Herbert Smith Freehill which subsequently said the campaign was 'potentially racially divisive' and 'in breach of relevant ethical principles.'
Lewis Silkin advised PRCA
Following the report the Public Relations and Communications Association, represented by Lewis Silkin, expelled Bell Pottinger for five years, saying it had breached its ethical code. Partner and media and litigation expert Adam Glass advised the PRCA during and post-the investigation. Further advice was provided to the PRCA board on the ratification of the PPC’s decision to terminate Bell Pottinger’s membership of the PRCA, as well as on the Board’s response to Bell Pottinger’s appeal and on its final decision to uphold the PPC’s recommendation of termination of membership. Adam Glass, partner at Lewis Silkin, said: 'The deep level of public scrutiny, as well as a broad cast of interested parties and stakeholders, made this a complex and delicate matter. We were, and remain, pleased to work closely with the PRCA and the wider PR and marketing industry.'