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Bell Pottinger CEO pays price of #GuptaCurse: R125m in life savings down the tubes

EDINBURGH — At the beginning of August, Bell Pottinger CEO James Henderson shrugged off criticism that his company was a force for evil in the Gupta-Zuma state capture campaign. Weeks later, his company has collapsed, taking his life savings with it. The London-headquartered FT reports that the public relations practitioner has lost £7m (about R125m). What’s more, this comes not long after Henderson handed over the keys to his swish family home in a messy divorce. His girlfriend, Sol Kerzner’s ex-wife Heather, has reportedly given him some ‘space’ after she lost £2.5m (about R45m) invested in Bell Pottinger.  – Jackie Cameron

By Thulasizwe Sithole

Bell Pottinger, the defunct PR agency, might have had a last-ditch chance of survival, the FT’s City Insider reports.

“As the Gupta scandal deepened, and pressure mounted on James Henderson to resign as chief executive, along with the rest of the board, an approach was made to a couple of City veterans to rescue the firm.

“Former Institute of Directors chief — and board member at Liam Fox’s Department for International Trade — Simon Walker was approached about an executive chairmanship, while former justice minister (Lord) Tom McNally was lined up as a potential non-exec,” says the columnist.

Heather Kerzner, ex-wife of controversial South African businessman Sol Kerzner, has invested in Bell Pottinger. She is set to wed former Bell Pottinger CEO James Henderson. Here the happy couple are photographed at a social event covered by glossy magazine Tatler.

The plan went nowhere, says the FT, in part because the business’s implosion, once it began, was so fast.

“Within three days last week, the majority of clients severed links with the firm. Administrators are now in charge — though outposts in Asia and the Middle East are still functioning.”

Wages of sin

Mr Henderson who resigned at the start of the month feels particularly hard done by, notes the FT.

“In a divorce settlement at the start of the year he lost his swish house in Clapham. All his personal wealth — an estimated £7m — was invested in Bell Pottinger, say friends.

“His 21 per cent stake is probably now worthless. And his new girlfriend, wealthy socialite Heather Kerzner, who owns 22 per cent (having invested a rumoured £2.5m only a few months ago) is pretty sore. November wedding plans are on hold, hopefully not permanently,” adds the columnist.

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