Bell Pottinger CEO quits amid Gupta scandal

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After being suspended from the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) on Tuesday as a result of an investigation into its questionable work on an advertising campaign that stoked racial tensions throughout South Africa for Oakbay Capital, Bell Pottinger began to lose major clients on Wednesday.

Leaked e-mails showed that Bell Pottinger had said the campaign needed to stress the continued "existence of economic apartheid". A source told The Guardian UK that a number of senior figures in the company who have directly brought money into the firm have also quit.

Bell Pottinger investor Chime, co-owned by USA investment firm Providence Equity Partners and Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP group, has given up trying to sell its 27 per cent holding in the wake of the scandal.

The developments that have beset Bell Pottinger over the past few months have been a welcome confirmation of the power of civil society and political action in response to the outrageous conduct of this world-renowned public relations organisation.

The public relations trade body described Bell Pottinger's work for the South African based Gupta family as "reprehensible".

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HSBC said it would no longer work with the firm, while fellow communications firm Chime confirmed it "no longer had a stake in Bell Pottinger" - writing-off the value of its 27% holding after failing to find a buyer.

The PR firm, founded in 1987, said it accepted there were lessons to be learned, but disputed the basis on which the ruling was made. He said while he had ultimate responsibility for Bell Pottinger, he had been "misled" over the campaign by colleagues.

Waitrose, which prides itself on its ethical stance, would not say whether it will definitely continue to employ the embattled agency. They are Richemont, the Swiss luxury company headed by South African businessman Johann Rupert; Investec, the South African investment group; and Acacia, which owns goldmines in Tanzania. "We don't comment on specific supplier relationships", said a spokeswoman, who refused to elaborate further.

It has also emerged that Bell Pottinger's second largest shareholder has walked away from the business by writing off its investment and handing back the stake to the struggling PR firm.

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