Bell Pottinger was founded in 1987 and became a partnership following a management buyout from Chime plc in 2012.
In August 2016, it was announced that Lord Bell was quitting as Bell Pottinger chairman and retaining a 7% stake in Bell Pottinger.
Timothy John Leigh Bell, Baron Bell (born 18 October 1941) is a British advertising and public relations executive, best known for his advisory role in Margaret Thatcher’s three successful general election campaigns.
Bell was born on 18 October 1941, to Greta Mary Findlay and Arthur Leigh Bell. He was educated at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Barnet, and joined ABC Television at 18 as a post boy. He worked in various advertising/PR firms in the late 60s including the London agency Geers Gross, before helping to found and becoming Managing Director of Saatchi and Saatchi in 1970, later serving as Chairman and Managing Director of Saatchi and Saatchi Compton from 1975.
On 19 November 1977 Bell was fined £50 for indecency. He had exposed himself while masturbating at his Hampstead bathroom window on 21 October in full view of female passers-by. He left Saatchi to found Lowe Howard-Spink & Bell (serving as deputy chairman) in 1985 and bought out part of it, which became his own agency, Lowe Bell Communications, in 1989, and became Chairman of Chime Communications in 1994 (which included the Bell Pottinger Group).
Sadly a comprehensive search does not reveal the provenance of ‘Pottinger’ in the firms full name of Bell Pottinger.
Bell was knighted in 1991 after nomination by Margaret Thatcher, and created a Life Peer after nomination by Tony Blair, as Baron Bell of Belgravia in the City of Westminster on 31 July 1998.
What is really concerning and a pointer to their total arrogance and sense of entitlement is that “State Capture” proponents, the Gupta family, would use a PR firm that serviced clients not known for their friendliness towards South Africa.
www.sourcewatch.org lists some of Bell Pottinger’s past and present clients as:
- Corporations: BAE Systems, DP World, McDonalds, Imperial Tobacco, law firmCarter Ruck, Moletest, Standard Life, Metrix Consortium, Paramount Group, Sinar Mas.
Governments/states or government agencies: Treasury Holdings, to “manage all community relations and engagement with local stakeholders for the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station” in London, UK, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Various Yemeni Government Organizations, Sri Lanka Government, Belarus (reputation management to have sanctions lifted), Government of Russia, Government of Turkey, Government of Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Individuals: Boris Berezovsky, Victor Dahdaleh, Rupiah Banda, Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Paramount Group and its head, Ivor Ichikowitz.
www.wikipedia.org lists Bell Pottinger clients as:
- Notable Bell Pottinger clients include: The government of Bahrain, Currencies Direct: Since 2008, Milklink: Since 2003, EADS: Since April 2009, The RSA Group Fallon in advertising and Bell Pottinger in public relations since November 2009, Dutch oil company Trafigura, notably in regards to the 2006 Ivory Coast toxic waste dump, DWF: the national law firm’s Liverpool office since March 2010, The government of Sri Lanka, Cuadrilla Resources, Rolf Harris, South Africa Tourism, Centrica Friends Life, Virgin Media Business, Hays, Mulberry, Birds Eye, AT&T Williams, Waitrose.
- Past clients include: Asma Assad, wife of Syrian president Bashar al Assad, The government of Belarus, Kate and Gerry McCann, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Boris Berozovsky, The Templeton Prize, Augusto Pinochet and the Pinochet Foundation, The Press Association, Talk Talk, Madrid Olympic Bid, Multiplex Wembley, Coca-Cola, Adobe, O2, HSBC, eBay, ASDA, NHS, Sega Europe, Emirates Airline: Chelsea/Emirates since February 2001, Fortnum & Mason: Bell Pottinger handles its retail and brand PR., Airbus: UK government relations, Investec, Richemont, Oakbay Investments, Dyson Ltd., The Gupta brothers, Duduzane Zuma.
What do employees say about Bell Pottinger? (courtesy of www.glassdoor.com):
- A very political environment with a sense of fear running through the company from directors to team assistants. There seems to be a set of unspoken rules – which you are expected to know and playing ‘the game’ is vital to survival here. Not very politically correct either.
- I would suggest that the management concentrates more on the people and less on trying to shout and scream about the numbers quite so much.
- Management problems, uncomfortable work environment, really below the line creative direction.
- The worst atmosphere of anywhere I have ever worked. Mainly due to quite a lot of senior staff who go out of their way to make managers and execs lives incredibly hard. Partners and APs are under a lot of pressure to bring in new business and it’s left to the rest of the under-resourced team to run accounts.
- About 75% of staff are white, upper middle class and privately educated with no concept of real life.
- The entire company culture is toxic and needs to be changed so get rid of the older senior staff who are guilty of creating this.
- Get more people on client accounts – so you don’t keeping losing clients!
- Change the company name and make the necessary changes to turn things around.
- There is a general feeling that the best days of the business are behind it – and that filters through to all levels of the business.
- Introduce some proper systems in order to make the company work. It’s a total amateur operation.
- Get rid of a lot of the dead wood that fills the upper echelons of the business and makes it a thoroughly depressing place to work.
What we can tell you about ‘Pottinger’ though is that the name Pottinger has it’s origins in one of these:
- From the English and Scottish tongue: an occupational name for a maker or seller of pottage – a stew or thick soup.
- An occupational name from Old French potecaire – meaning ‘apothecary.
- From German – possibly a habitational name from a place called Potting in Bavaria.
For our money we will choose the English/Scottish version of Pottinger but observe that the soup has now become more of a thin broth rather than a thick soup of any substance.