Bell Pottinger on the market as clients leave in droves

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The PRCA said the Bell Pottinger campaign was "likely to inflame racial discord in South Africa". Instead, it wrote off the holding and handed it back.

Bell Pottinger was expelled from the PR industry's trade body on Tuesday following an investigation into the company's work for Oakbay Capital in South Africa.

British clients were similarly rushing to dump the firm yesterday, with HSBC, St James's Place, the wealth manager, DS Smith, the packaging group, and Carillion, the construction group, all in the process of severing ties.

The slogan, aired frequently on a Gupta-owned television station, quickly gained traction in a country where the white minority still wields disproportionate economic clout two decades after the end of apartheid.

"For it to be done in South Africa, a country which has become an worldwide 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", it said. He said in a statement: "Although I neither initiated nor was involved in the Oakbay work, I accept that as CEO, I have ultimate executive responsibility for Bell Pottinger".

The PRCA, which represents 400 businesses and 20,000 individuals, said the firm had purposely played on frayed race relations in the campaign.

"The view of the PRCA board was that Bell Pottinger's actions were deliberately meant to create exactly the result they did - stirring up racial hatred in a very sensitive area of the world", Francis Ingham, PRCA director general, said.

In response to the decision, Bell Pottinger said it "accepts that there are lessons to be learned but disputes the basis on which the ruling was made" and said that it would "refocus on delivering outstanding work for our clients and looking after our people".

It said it would continue to abide by the PRCA's code of ethics.

Veteran spin doctor Chris Vick told HuffPostSA on Tuesday Bell Pottinger is "as good as dead" and shouldn't bother attempting to recover.

Lord Tim Bell, the firm's co-founder, admitted the company would "almost certainly" fail to recover from the Gupta-linked scandal during an interview on BBC Newsnight on Monday evening. "I think the decline is terminal".

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