How a P.R. Firm That Aided Despots and Rogues Met Its End in South Africa
The message was popularized with an incendiary phrase, “white monopoly capital.”
How Bell Pottinger went bankrupt is a tale of corporate skulduggery that seems lifted from “House of Cards,” the P. R.
During the Gupta disaster, a vicious boardroom struggle unfolded, one
that pitted a co-founder, Tim Bell, against James Henderson, 53, who ran the firm in the years before it went under.
Mr. Henderson issued a news release asserting the report contained statements that were “wholly untrue.”
Although Bell Pottinger was widely blamed for the social media campaign, a forensic analysis performed by the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting concluded
that it was created and overseen by employees and affiliates of the Guptas.
The Guptas and Mr. Zuma were so intertwined that critics had taken to referring to the “Zupta regime.”
As the power of the Guptas and their holding company, Oakbay Investments, gained attention, the family wanted the public relations equivalent of a stun grenade — a distraction
that would draw attention away from them and onto their many enemies.
Inside Bell Pottinger, it was widely believed that Mr. Bell wanted to damage the
company just enough to weaken Mr. Henderson and compel a change of leadership.
Mr. Bell said he soon resolved to quit the company because he felt undermined and undervalued by Mr. Henderson.