As scandal-ridden PR agency Bell Pottinger collapses into administration, Ashurst, Hogan Lovells and Mishcon de Reya have swept in to take advisory roles during the aftermath.
Ashurst is acting for Bell Pottinger’s administrators, BDO, with a team consisting of corporate partner Bruce Hanton and restructuring partner Olga Galazoula. Ashurst had previously represented Bell Pottinger in 2012 when founder Lord Bell acquired the PR company back from its parent company Chime. Hogan Lovells is advising the agency’s biggest lender, Lloyds Banking Group.
The administration of the high-profile agency is directly linked to a widely criticised campaign in South Africa. The agency rapidly collapsed after the publication on 4 September of a report by Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), the day after Bell Pottinger chief executive James Henderson resigned. The report criticised the agency for creating potentially racially divisive material targeted towards ‘wealthy white South African individuals or corporates’.
Since the report was published, both Pinsent Masons and Berwin Leighton Paisner have announced that they were discontinuing their relationship with Bell Pottinger, which had a number of law firm clients. The company, which rapidly became one of the City’s dominant communication firms after its launch in the buccaneering 1980s, has around 100 staff in the UK.
Meanwhile, Mishcon has been primed to advise two former Bell Pottinger partners who are weighing up their options to sue their former employer, according to press reports, though the firm refused to confirm its role.
The notice of intention for Bell Pottinger to appoint administrators was filed on 8 September, but came into effect on 12 September. None of the company’s subsidiaries outside the UK are in administration, and they will continue to trade under the control of separate management teams.
A spokesperson for BDO said: ‘Following an immediate assessment of the financial position, the administrators have made a number of redundancies. The administrators are now working with the remaining partners and employees to seek an orderly transfer of Bell Pottinger’s clients to other firms in order to protect and realise value for creditors.’