Arun Sudhaman 29 Nov 2011 // 12:00AM GMT
DOHA--Qatar Foundation is poised to conclude its lengthy global agency review, selecting Brown Lloyd James (BLJ) and Grayling to handle the lion’s share of a lucrative PR budget worth upwards of £2m.
Revealed by the Holmes Report earlier this year, the pitch split the master contract - previously led by three-year incumbent Bell Pottinger - into three briefs. One focuses on strategic communication, one on international communication, and the other on serving the non-profit foundation's many institutions.
It is understood that Grayling and BLJ are currently in final contract negotiations and will split the first two briefs, each embedding teams within Qatar Foundation. The duo will also help service the last brief along with a group of firms that includes Fleishman Hillard and affiliate Forbes, and another incumbent, Hill & Knowlton.
Bell Pottinger Middle East chief executive Tom Mollo confirmed to the Holmes Report that his firm's relationship with Qatar Foundation had ended.
The development comes as Qatar Foundation separately reviews global comms for its World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) event, currently handled by Fleishman-Hillard.
The statutory repitch of the master contract, which began in April, drew interest from numerous global networks. In addition to BLJ, Grayling, Bell Pottinger, H&K and Fleishman-Hillard, it is understood that at least three more firms were involved in the process: Ketchum Raad, Cohn & Wolfe, and Weber Shandwick.
Both BLJ and Ketchum Raad have handled work for Qatar Foundation in the past. The organisation, which is backed by the oil-rich Gulf nation’s government, focuses on education, scientific research and community development, through such vehicles as Education City, Al Jazeera Children’s Channel and the Reach out to Asia charity initiative.
Qatar Foundation corporate and PR manager Stephanie Hartgrove declined to comment, adding that "no contracts have been awarded at this stage."
For Bell Pottinger, the account loss follows the winding down of another significant Middle East account, covering its work for the US-led administration in Iraq.