Bell Pottinger drops Guptas, plays victim by citing ‘social media attacks’

Bell Pottinger, the infamous UK public relations firm known for representing some of the world’s most controversial clients, has finally called it quits on representing the Gupta-linked Oakbay Investments. In the media world, there was talk for some time that Bell Pottinger had let go of the Guptas. But I can personally reveal that Bell Pottinger – or as we journalists call them ‘BP’ – were still representing Oakbay as recently as January this year. My personal experience with Bell Pottinger was that they pushed an anti-Gordhan agenda in their communications, in a bid to defend their client Oakbay. Now, Bell Pottinger are saying that they’ve quit Oakbay because the PR firm feels that it has become “targeted and become the story”. Well, that is some spin if I have to say so myself. The reality is that it may be “mission accomplished” for Bell Pottinger as President Jacob Zuma finally pulled the trigger and fired Gordhan in a dramatic show of political force last month. South Africa is now enduring junk status and we can speculate that the Gupta family is over the moon with Gordhan’s departure. The job is done for BP and who knows how much they were paid. There’s set to be a protest on Saturday outside BP’s London offices, and many will probably agree with me that the protest should still go ahead. – Gareth van Zyl

By Paul Burkhardt

Bloomberg – Bell Pottinger said it no longer represents a company controlled by South Africa’s Gupta family, who are friends with President Jacob Zuma, after social-media attacks against the UK-based public relations firm accelerated.

The Guptas’ Oakbay Investments is a holding company that controls Oakbay Resources and Energy and owns stakes in information technology, mining and media companies in South Africa.

(President Zuma accompanied by Atul Gupta, Minister of Public Enterprise Malusi Gigaba and CEO of The New Age Nazeem Howa.

“For the last year we have been working to help Oakbay defend itself from attacks on its reputation, correcting misrepresentations and defending it and its owners from politically motivated attack,” Bell Pottinger said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

“In recent times, the tactics of Oakbay’s detractors have changed; Bell Pottinger has been targeted and become the story.”

Companies controlled by members of the Gupta family, who are also in business with Zuma’s son Duduzane, were dropped by their South African bankers, brokers, and auditors last year, and the nation’s graft ombudsman implied that the president allowed the family to influence cabinet appointments and the issuing of state contracts. Zuma and the Guptas deny the allegations.

Bell Pottinger’s decision to cut ties with the Guptas was agreed upon by both parties and it has not seen evidence of wrongdoing by Oakbay, the company said in Wednesday’s statement.


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