PR firm Bell Pottinger could go into administration

According to various media reports, people working at PR firm Bell Pottinger have been told that the company could go into administration next week.

Bell Pottinger lost clients after being accused of running a campaign in South Africa which stirred up racial tension in the country.

The PR firm worked on a campaign on behalf of the Indian-origin Gupta family in South Africa but came under fire after it appeared to be targeting white corporate South Africa.

The firm’s campaign used controversial and racially divisive tactics, such as the #WhiteMonopolyCapital hashtag.

South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance complained to the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), accusing Bell Pottinger of a “hateful and divisive campaign to divide South Africa along the lines of race”.

The firm has since been expelled from the PRCA.

PRCA director-general Francis Ingham said: “Bell Pottinger has brought the PR and communications industry into disrepute with its actions, and it has received the harshest possible sanctions,”

The BBC reports that the announcement was made at a meeting at the firm’s London headquarters.

Lord Bell, founder of the company, told the BBC that it the firm is probably “near the end”.

After the controversy, law firm Herbert Smith Freehills was hired to conduct an internal review.

In its review, the firm said:

“Bell Pottinger senior management should have known that the campaign was at risk of causing offence, including on grounds of race.

“In such circumstances, BP ought to have exercised extreme care and should have closely scrutinised the creation of content for the campaign. This does not appear to have happened.”

Bell Pottinger also created material which “was negative or targeted towards wealthy white South African individuals or corporates and/or was potentially racially divisive and/or potentially offensive and was created in breach of relevant ethical principles,” the review added.