Mailbox: Offer to purchase Bell Pottinger, change its name to ‘Bel vir Potgieter’

JOHANNESBURG — Many South Africans would be celebrating the demise of UK PR firm Bell Pottinger which last week tried to put itself up for sale as it stares down imminent administration and possible closure. The implosion of Bell Pottinger has been spectacular, to say the least, and the company will probably make it into business textbooks in future in chapters dealing with unethical practices. Of course, the Asian and Middle East units of Bell Pottinger have distanced themselves from the demise of their London head office and the company’s dealings with the Guptas’ Oakbay Capital. The Asian unit has reportedly spun-off with a new name and identity. Meanwhile, the UAE arm of Bell Pottinger has also sought to split itself off. In this below tongue-in-cheek letter, a BizNews reader addresses the MD of Bell Potts Middle East, Archie Berens, on an ‘interesting’ offer to purchase… – Gareth van Zyl

By Gerard van Niekerk

Hi Archie,

Forgive my bluntness by addressing you as Archie, and not Mr Berens, but it sounds a little too formal for friends to address each other as mister. And since we’re about to clinch a deal, I’m sure you’ll agree that we’re almost friends, old chap!

Let me get right to the point. I have heard reports that your company is up for sale. I would like to purchase Bell Pottinger. The company, of course, unless of course Bell Pottinger is a man, in which case I shall retract my offer to purchase. You see, I’m married to a lovely wife, and with a child in the house it will be a little awkward for another man to move in, because I’d have to convert the garage into a guest room.

A London taxi passes the offices which house the headquarters of Bell Pottinger LLP in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. Bell Pottinger LLP’s attempt to sell itself has reportedly collapsed amid an exodus of clients and staff, succumbing to an unprecedented backlash over the London public-relations firm’s involvement in a racially divisive social-media campaign the company ran in South Africa. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

I hope you don’t mind, but before I get into business with somebody, I normally Google them. I see you studied the Classics. Good man, I also listen to Boney M and Abba, and I still have the Hooked on Classics record I got for my birthday a few years ago. I aso see your’e a serial cricket nut. Seems I’m in good company, because I too love nuts, eat ProNutro as cereal, and what is better than giving the Balmy Army a good thrashing at Newlands.

Let me know if you have to run this offer to purchase past Mark Smith, your Chairman and Managing Partner. I see he has some experience with acquisitions and disposals, so I think it may be important to so include him in getting rid of the current Bell Pottinger and there are strong rumours that Bell Pottinger has fallen. I also see he’s married with six children, so he may have his hands full with screaming kids running through the house. Trust me, I know what it’s like: I was one of seven kids.

Read also: Kerzner millions in Bell Pottinger up in smoke as tax collectors move in. #GuptaCurse

I’m so glad you got rid of that scoundrel, James Henderson, the previous MD. Something about his haircut says he can’t be trusted. We can’t have that sort of rubbish in a good company, particularly if we move it to South Africa. People standing in the Woolworths cue may stare and say nasty things about him.

I’m a little concerned that you’re still following Victoria Geoghegan on Twitter. Although few locals can pronounce her surname, I believe her name really stinks around South Africa. It may be a prudent idea to defriend her. I’m happy to see you’re not following the Zuma’s, particularly that Duduzane boy. He’s also whining about not being able to open a bank account, so it’s just a waste of time to listen to a loser without access to his own cash. Taking money from him was part of the company’s rapid decline, don’t you agree?

While you’re getting rid of all the bad apples, I think one of the first jobs the new Bell Pottinger can do is to get rid of that scoundrel Zuma, but a word of warning, I think he’s quite shrewd, and he normally just laughs if you ask him anything serious. Getting rid of the Guptas, those Indians brothers who are tying to buy South Africa should be a lot easier. I see they have already sold their newspaper and TV station to some gullible idiot who swallowed your WMC story hook, line and sinker. At least one or two idiots fell for that sneaky campaign.

Jacob Zuma’s presidency as seen by top cartoonist Jeremy. More magic available at

We can change the name from Bell Pottinger to Bel vir Potgieter. You see, Andries Hendrik Potgieter was a Voortrekker. Voortrekker means those in front who pull, and we want to be in front. Clever, hey? And when anybody needs help, Bel vir Potgieter can be the news catch phrase. It will be a new favourite word like biltong, pap or snoek.

I operate out of Cape Town, in the beautiful village of Hout Bay. I suggest we run the head office here, and not in that lavish building in have in High Holborn, or the plush offices you have all over he world. We’ll have an office in Pretoria, De Aar, and of course one in Potgietersrus because it goes well with the name of the town. London is also way too expensive, particularly since the Rand went down the toilet, or the loo as you English refer to it. Office hours can be 9 to 4, and that will give us some time to get to the Chapmans Peak Hotel after work to discuss business of the day to enjoy a cold beer or two. That’s one thing we South Africans like is cold beer and warm women, unlike you poor chaps in London, where somebody told me you drink warm beer. I sure they things they say about your women is just because of the weather.

Read also: Bell Pottinger’s demise in UK highlights SA’s glaring accountability deficit – DA

It won’t be long before I have turned the company into a cash cow, so to speak. I’ll start by turning White Monopoly Capital around, three words you so cleverly created. A stroke of genius, I say and a lot more effective than Weapons of Mass Destruction that idiot Bush came up with. It’s just a pity the phrase White Monopoly Capital also brought the company to its knees. Monopoly was also a bad choice since kids are more interested in their cell phones than some silly board game that usually ends when somebody tosses the board off the table. We’ll turn WMC into White Minority Capital, so we can keep the WMC abbreviation without having to change too many things. It should also save us a few Pound, a currency I believe we should reintroduce to our country. We can put that on our list of things to do to swing the company around.

I’ll give you some time to think about my offer this weekend, but don’t take too long. I’m afraid your company is losing money by the second. Let’s move quickly. I’ll be able to send you money on Monday. If, you prefer PayPal, let me know, we can do that in South Africa too, so it’s not all doom and gloom here. If we pull off this deal, I’ll invite you for braaivleis. I’ll toss in a couple of bottles of red wine too, our wine is “lekker”. Lekker is a word we use here when things are top totty, particularly if there are a couple of girls around. You PR-okes like girls, of course, but I’m getting a bit off track here.

Once I have your confirmation, we can proceed with the confidential stuff and lawyers can scrutinise the documents.

Have a great weekend, old chap!

Yours truly,

Gerard van Niekerk

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