UPDATED: Bell Pottinger breached certain ‘ethical principles’ – law firm

JOHANNESBURG — Reverberations are vibrating through the UK’s PR world today as the CEO of Bell Pottinger has now officially released a statement about his exit from his role, following reports on the weekend. What’s less certain is whether he has sold his stake in the company. Nevertheless, his exit comes just before the UK’s PRCA is set to sanction Bell Pottinger on Tuesday. He is also jumping ship just before law firm Herbert Smith releases its own report on what exactly happened with the company’s business with the Guptas. What’s interesting in Henderson’s statement is his comment about other “colleagues who misled me”. A recent report on BizNews pointed to how Henderson may not entirely have had a proper grip on what staff underneath him were getting up to (read that report by clicking here). – Gareth van Zyl

By James Henderson*

I have today resigned as CEO of Bell Pottinger.

In June I commissioned Herbert Smith to look at the details of the work we undertook for Oakbay, the findings of which will be published shortly.

Tim Bell
Bell Pottinger principals: Tim Bell, James Henderson

Having read these findings, I recognise the business requires a change of leadership to fix the problems of the past and to move forward.

Although I neither initiated nor was involved in the Oakbay work, I accept that as CEO, I have ultimate executive responsibility for Bell Pottinger.

I feel deeply let down by the colleagues who misled me. However, I think it is important I take proper accountability for what has happened.

I have also striven to put the best interests of Bell Pottinger and its brilliant staff first, and it is for that reason that I am stepping down today.

I would like to thank all of the Bell Pottinger staff and clients who have supported, and continue to support me. The business will now move forward in the best interests of its clients and staff.

Comment from Chairman, Mark Smith:

“James has always had the best interests of the business at heart, especially during the recent, difficult months. He was not involved in the Oakbay account but as CEO he believes he must take ultimate responsibility. That is a laudable decision.”

  • James Henderson was previously the CEO of UK PR firm Bell Pottinger

In the meantime, Bell Pottinger has also released a summary of Herbert Smith’s report on the work for Oakbay. Bell Pottinger, though, has not released the Herbert Smith report in full:

Findings of Herbert Smith Freehills Review

Press release from the Democratic Alliance:

By Phumzile van Damme*

The report by Herbert Freehills Smith (HFS) LLP on the review of Bell Pottinger’s Oakbay Capital account does not reveal any new information that isn’t already in the public domain.

The release of the report is nothing more than a poor attempt by Bell Pottinger to appear to be taking responsibility for the unethical campaign they ran on behalf of the Gupta family and, President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, ahead of the release of the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) report tomorrow.

The DA will request that Bell Pottinger provides the 45 000 documents that were the subject of the HFS review, for our own review on behalf of the South African public.

The DA looks forward to the release of the PRCA’s report on Bell Pottinger tomorrow. This report, by an independent organisation, not one hired by Bell Pottinger themselves, will inspire more confidence.

  • Phumzile Van Damme is an MP and DA Shadow Minister of Communications
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