Arun Sudhaman 10 Sep 2017 // 7:48AM GMT
DUBAI — Bell Pottinger Middle East (BPME) has announced plans to sever ties from its embattled UK parent agency, which is set to enter administration this week in the wake of its South African scandal.
BPME's directors — including MDs Archie Berens in Abu Dhabi and Tim Falconer in Dubai — said they are "currently working on a proposal" with the administrators of Bell Pottinger Private Limited in the UK to formalise separation and transfer ownership of the business to its Middle Eastern management.
The move follows Bell Pottinger Asia's decision to sever ties and rebrand as Klareco Communications on Friday. It has been less than a week since Bell Pottinger was expelled from the PRCA for stoking racial tensions in South Africa, plunging the UK firm into a fight for its survival.
Berens and Falconer, much like the firm's Asia CEO Ang Shih-Huei, were at pains to distance themselves from their UK parent — pointing out that BPME, as a separate legal entity, is not part of the administration proceedings "and is therefore in a position to determine its own destiny."
In addition, they reiterated that they had expressly rejected the opportunity work on the Oakbay account on behalf of the controversial Gupta family. "BPME has been at pains to point out that at no point were its UAE directors ever involved in the winning or servicing of the Oakbay account in South Africa which has led to the sad demise of the UK business."
Berens began his Bell Pottinger career in 2005 with Pelham, the firm owned by former Bell Pottinger CEO James Henderson, who resigned last week but remains one of the UK firm's key shareholders. Berens has led Abu Dhabi since 2013 and now takes charge of BPME, which employs around 25 people.
Falconer, meanwhile, joined BPME in 2015 from the Wall Street Journal. In addition the firm has promoted Amy Piek to director. Key BPME clients include Bahrain's Economic Development Board, Aldar Properties and Franklin Templeton.
Find all of our Bell Pottinger coverage here, including a new podcast with PRCA director general Francis Ingham.
"As an independent and financially secure business with a strong and experienced team in charge of its own destiny, it will now be open to us to consider a whole range of options," said Berens. "Our company has a long and proud tradition of working in the Middle East and it is now up to us to continue to build on that. With my fellow directors Tim Falconer and Amy Piek, I cannot wait to get started on the next stage of the journey."