Bell Pottinger fires Gupta-linked employees

Apologises for sowing racial tension after seeing interim evidence.

After more than three months of vehement denials of stirring racial tension in South Africa while working for the Gupta family, UK-based PR firm Bell Pottinger fired four employees who worked on the account. The firm also apologised for their conduct.

James Henderson, Bell Pottinger’s chief executive, who until last week strongly denied that the firm did anything wrong, said in a media statement that its employees may have misled the management team. He added that the firm already “dismissed the lead partner involved and suspended another partner and two employees so that we can determine their precise role in what took place.”

The PR firm has already appointed an international law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, to review the work it did for Oakbay during its one-year tenure and will publish a report once it is completed.

In the statement Henderson states that “we have already been shown interim evidence which has dismayed us”, probably referring to the damning evidence contained in Guptaleaks emails. These emails, whose authenticity haven’t been questioned, offer conclusive proof that Bell Pottinger fuelled the racial agenda. The emails also revealed how Bell Pottinger executive Victoria Georghegan interacted with Zuma’s son, Duduzane, to formulate a campaign to manipulate the political narrative in the country.

In the statement Henderson states: “Much of what has been alleged about our work is, we believe, not true – but enough of it is to be of deep concern. There has been a social media campaign that highlights the issue of economic emancipation in a way that we, having now seen it, consider to be inappropriate and offensive.

“At various points throughout the tenure of the Oakbay account, senior management have been misled about what has been done. For it to be done in South Africa, a country which has become an international beacon of hope for its progress towards racial reconciliation, is a matter of profound regret and in no way reflects the values of Bell Pottinger.”

Henderson also offers an apology: “At Bell Pottinger – a proudly diverse and international team – we have good, decent people who will be as angered by what has been discovered as we are. We wish to issue a full, unequivocal and absolute apology to anyone impacted. These activities should never have been undertaken. We are deeply sorry that this happened.”

The statement was issued more than three months after Bell Pottinger terminated its reported £100 000-a-month contract with the Gupta family when the first allegations of misconduct arose.

Several other international firms such as Richemont, Pan African Resources and Tharisa Plc also ditched the firm in reaction to the allegations. The UK operation of SA Tourism has also recently cut ties with the firm, but denied that it was due to political reasons.

The UK-based Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) also confirmed this week that it will investigate the firm’s conduct after the DA laid a complaint. This also follows a sustained social media campaign against the firm under the hashtag #BellPottingerMustFall.

 

 

Read the full statement from James Henderson, chief executive of Bell Pottinger:

Three months ago, Bell Pottinger announced that it had decided to cease work for Oakbay Capital. We had worked for them for a year, following a competitive bid process.

When we terminated our work with Oakbay, we said we were doing so because of increasingly strong social media attacks on our staff and our business from South Africa, and that we regarded the criticisms of what our team had done as unfair.

These attacks on, and criticisms of, our staff continued and were clearly the result of strong and sincere anger. Most seriously, it was said that we had supported or aided campaigns to stir up racial division in South Africa. Therefore, we called in the leading independent international law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, to review the account and the work done on it. That investigation is still continuing and will be completed in the next few weeks. We intend to publish the findings of that report and take appropriate action.

However, we have already been shown interim evidence which has dismayed us. Much of what has been alleged about our work is, we believe, not true — but enough of it is to be of deep concern.

There has been a social media campaign that highlights the issue of economic emancipation in a way that we, having now seen it, consider to be inappropriate and offensive. At various points throughout the tenure of the Oakbay account, senior management have been misled about what has been done. For it to be done in South Africa, a country which has become an international beacon of hope for its progress towards racial reconciliation, is a matter of profound regret and in no way reflects the values of Bell Pottinger.

Though the inquiry is ongoing, we have dismissed the lead partner involved and suspended another partner and two employees so that we can determine their precise role in what took place. As soon as we were made aware that we had been misled and that work was being done which goes against the very core of our ethical policies, we acted immediately.

At Bell Pottinger — a proudly diverse and international team – we have good, decent people who will be as angered by what has been discovered as we are.

We wish to issue a full, unequivocal and absolute apology to anyone impacted. These activities should never have been undertaken. We are deeply sorry that this happened.

James Henderson is the chief executive of Bell Pottinger.

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To say that they were misled is a really cope out as any deviation from being ethical is merely confirming that they were unethical. This overt operation with Oakbay surely indicates that they neither thought through the outcome or evaluated the consequences which I would have thought would have been of paramount importance to the company to avoid reputational risks

The use of the word ‘Misled” by spin doctors is BS in itself.

They should use the money paid to them and launch a tourism program to South Africa. That will show sincerity .

See it for what it is – a spin doctor company having to protect itself from itself!!!

How many people have been working sacrificially for this country for years to have it undone by some people for funds from a family that likely took the money from that same country in the first place?

When one realizes one has done wrong, the ethical thing is not to walk away but to fix it.

Since they had the Oakbay account for a year, how about a PR campaign for a year at no cost to South Africa researching and pointing out all the good things a massive number of people have been doing to make the country work?

I call bulldust. Bell Pottinger has lost credibility, and I’ll bet their customers are also waking up to it.

Smoke & Mirrors and scapegoating at its sleaziest. Henderson knew, as did other Exec’s – what did they think the revenues flowing into BP’s accounts were for!

What was the movie about the Hendersons and the bigfoot – this is kind of like that, except here Henderson and his crew created the bigfoot and now put up their effort and outcomes to the alter for sacrifice to cleanse their malignant and malevolent souls, and all the while pleading ignorance. Ha, ha – tell us another one….

What else could they possibly have been taking money for?

Their whole business revolves around publishing fake news and bullsh!t to try to sway people’s opinions.

Total and utter BS statement.

Cannot be believed!

So, if Bell Pottinger did in fact fire and get rid of all their ‘Gupta” employees, does that mean most of the ANC Cadre are out of work?

There must be laws in the UK which could prosecute Bell Pottinger for what they have done. Does anyone know anything about how to get the ball rolling in the UK?In the UK there is Zero tolerance for this type of action.

The ONLY thing James Henderson is sorry about – is the fact that his sleazy firm has been caught out.
If the Guptaleaks emails did not exist, he would have simply stuck to the “we did absolutely nothing wrong” narrative and shrugged off all accusations.

While they are busy, also ask law firm Herbert Smith Freehills to investigate if you only developed a conscience when clients like Richemont, Pan African Resources and Tharisa Plc started ditching you.

“We were made aware that we had been misled” Can we believe that they did not know? I don’t think so!

Bell Pottinger must be the most odious, disgusting company to ever darken the shores of our country. Any & all payments they received from the criminal Gupta organization should be donated to the DA and all BP employees should have SA passport control stamp a “persona non-grata” in their passports and be sent back to where ever they crawled out of!

Destroy a beautiful country, destroy people’s lives and then say sorry? Is that all you have to say? really?

I would recommend everyone that lost money due to your actions, to sue you in return.

I would recommend that no South African do business with you on ethical reasons.

Does “SORRY” undo farm murders or other racial violence / hatred incited by Bell Pottinger???

Hard to see this company and its unethical people surviving. They should be held accountable in a court of law..

The Guptas need to be fired right out of the country along with all their festering zombie cohorts.

Gee, Fancy playing the Ignorance Card.

And we dumb colonials in SA thought that JZ783 had invented it

Agree wholeheartedly, Canyon.

If this is the subject of an investigation by bp in the UK, WHEN are we going to see a proper investigation into the guptas in who commissioned them in the first place??

They should be sent back to India in leaky rowing boats.

After all the denials, it took the revelations of the truth to force an acknowledgement of culpability. What a mob.

Their employees are going to run away. Their business is creative people. They may as well shut the firm.

End of comments.

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