Bell Pottinger CEO: We made no money from Gupta campaign

Bell Pottinger CEO James Henderson says the company did not benefit from the Gupta campaign but rather suffered reputational damage.

Picture: @BellPottinger/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - The CEO of Bell Pottinger says he has no intention at this stage to come to South Africa to explain the company's public relations campaign for the controversial Gupta family.

Former chairperson and founder of the London based public relations firm Lord Bell, current CEO James Henderson, and Atul Gupta spoke to BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday about the campaign to exploit racial tensions in South Africa.

In the interview, Atul denies seeking Bell Pottinger’s services for political reasons and maintains that the company was only helping with PR for the family's Oakbay Investments, but Bell has a different version of their agreement.

Gupta insists that there was nothing dodgy about his family’s business relationship with Bell Pottinger.

“I really do not know what they’re coming from. Bell Pottinger is like an adviser but I think such an articulate company should not be doing anything funny.”

However, Bell says that the Guptas requested a campaign that included mobilising people on the ground to highlight that the lives of black people hadn’t changed since 1994.

The likes of former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan have called on the PR firm to pay back the money made from their dealings with the Guptas to South Africa as part of reparations.

But Henderson says the company did not benefit from the campaign for the Guptas.

"It would be wrong to say we have made money from this account in any way."

“This has cost us reputationally and in terms of the amounts we’ve had to spend on reports, client losses are more than that.

"This has been a very costly account for us. We have been targeted by a number of political parties and all of our employees have been personally targeted with death threats, huge intimidation.”

Henderson also says there is no need to come to South Africa to explain at this stage because what the company actually did or did not do needs to be verified first.

(Edited by Winnie Thelestane)