UPDATE: James Henderson has issued a full statement on his departure from the CEO role at the UK PR firm. You can read his statement here: FULL STATEMENT: James Henderson on why he’s quit as Bell Pottinger CEO
JOHANNESBURG — News of Bell Pottinger CEO James Henderson’s resignation sparked some jubilation and even scepticism on the part of several BizNews readers on our channels. Henderson’s resignation comes just before the UK’s PRCA is set to make a final decision regarding a sanction of the company. Bell Pottinger faces possible expulsion from the PR body over allegations that it stirred up racial tensions in South Africa amid work it did for the controversial Gupta family. Despite having severed ties with Oakbay in April this year, South Africans’ wrath against Bell Pottinger intensified with several of the company’s employees moving to lock their Twitter profiles. The future of Bell Pottinger is now uncertain. Meanwhile, the damage has already been done to South Africa. Below then are BizNews readers’ reactions to the news. – Gareth van Zyl
By Thulisizwe Sithole
South Africans have taken to social media to express their joy, surprise and even scepticism around the resignation of Bell Pottinger CEO James Henderson.
The resignation, which was made public over the weekend, comes amid intense scrutiny of the company and its role in a racially divisive PR campaign for the Gupta-controlled Oakbay.
Even though Bell Pottinger stopped working for Oakbay in April this year and even issued an “unequivocal apology” to South Africans, the focus on the company intensified amid revelations in the Gupta email leaks.
Henderson and Heather Kerzner own just under 40% of Bell Pottinger. The pair is expected to get married in November this year.
Henderson is further expected to release an official statement of his departure today.
Meanwhile, this is what BizNews readers have had to say about his exit on our social media and published comments:
Chris Navio on Facebook wrote, “These are snakes just doing a bit of damage control. They’ll come back more venomous than before”.
Cheslyn Wessels, meanwhile, asked what kind of difference James Henderson’s exit from his CEO role would actually make: “It’s a Japanese Resignation: for appearance sake, but he still works in the same capacity under a different title and location.”
Nicci Roussos is also sceptical of Henderson’s departure: “The fact they’re resigning is of no consequence. These Spin Doctors are still active and applying their well-honed skills. They’re not going to sit back and be unemployed. Payment will now be direct to the individuals not via BP. Just check the headlines !!”
Adrian Blom, adding his voice to the conversation, said that the fact that Henderson resigned should be a signal for me people linked to the Gupta scandals in South Africa to resign:
“This is what happens in a normal society. You have to pay for wrongdoing. In SA you just deny everything and carry on as usual. Zero accountability and governance.”
Jon Plowman feels no sympathy for Bell Pottinger or Henderson: “I’m crying buckets of crocodile tears for them over here. They did this to themselves, and it’s the very least they deserve. The whole damn lot of them should be facing long-term jail sentences for what they’ve done. And ignorance is NO excuse. Any halfway responsible individual in a management position understands that they have an onus to stay on top of what their underlings are up to.”
Marius Kritzinger said Henderson should ultimately face “extradition to SA” if Bell Pottinger’s appeal with the PRCA fails.
Don MacLean said the damage is already done: “The depth of damage they did to already frayed race relations in South Africa is incomprehensible. They obviously lacked any connection or understanding of South Africa and recent history. Either that, or they just didn’t care. I’m not in favour of hate crime legislation but I’d be willing to accept this company and those responsible as individuals, to be prosecuted under these laws. Filth.”
Reva Barendse said that “at least he owned up, but [he] has done irreparable damage to our country in the process. No ethics, just money. Lesson learned.”
Alan Simm added that Henderson is “getting out before they pass judgement against the company. He must have heard through the grapevine it wasn’t going to be pleasant. May the fleas of a 1000 desert camels …”
Finally, Pierre Prinsloo congratulated the DA on pursuing the matter with the PRCA in the UK, a catalyst that is expected to see Bell Pottinger sanctioned this week: “Well done DA. Now we need them to face a heavy financial penalty.”