Bell Pottinger collapses into administration after South Africa scandal, BDO confirms

William Turvill
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General Election - Economy
Bell Pottinger was booted out of the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) last week (Source: Getty)

Bell Pottinger formally crashed into administration this evening after becoming engulfed in scandal.

Accountancy firm BDO has been appointed administrator to the disgraced public relations firm.

BDO said a notice of intention to appoint three partners as administrators was filed last Friday evening and became effective today, 12 September.

“Late last week, the level of [the firm’s] losses, compounded by the inability of the business to win new clients, was such that remaining management were left with no option but to commence the process to place all UK Bell Pottinger entities into administration,” BDO said.

The entities formally in administration are Bell Pottinger Private Ltd, Bell Pottinger LLP and Bell Pottinger Services Ltd, and not any of the subsidiaries outside of the UK.

A BDO spokesman said: “Following an immediate assessment of the financial position, the administrators have made a number of redundancies.

“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.”

Bell Pottinger, founded in 1987, suffered a nightmare week following the publication last Monday, 4 September, of a report into its work for the Gupta family’s Oakbay Capital in South Africa.

Chief executive James Henderson resigned ahead of the release of the Herbert Smith Freehills report, which found that the Oakbay Capital campaign “was potentially racially divisive and/or potentially offensive and was created in breach of relevant ethical principles”.

Following publication, Bell Pottinger was booted out of the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA). The body said that the firm had “brought the PR and communications industry into disrepute with its actions, and it has received the harshest possible sanctions”.

In the days after the report, more high-profile employees of the Holborn-headquartered firm resigned, including head of financial PR John Sunnucks.

A number of high-profile clients also deserted the public relations firm, including FTSE 100 wealth management giant St James’s Place, construction firm Carillion, HSBC, student housing firm Unite Group, rat catcher and business services group Rentokil and We Buy Any Car owner BCA Marketplace.

The likes of Anglo-South African bank Investec, Acacia Mining and challenger bank CYBG had already walked out on Bell Pottinger in the months leading up to the Oakbay Capital report.

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