Bell Pottinger Drops Guptas' Oakbay Citing Social-Media Attacks

  • PR company says it’s become target of client’s detractors
  • Move was by mutual agreement with Oakbay, Bell Pottinger says

Bell Pottinger said it no longer represents a company controlled by South Africa’s Gupta family, who are friends with President Jacob Zuma, after social-media attacks against the U.K.-based public relations firm accelerated.

The Guptas’ Oakbay Investments Ltd. is a holding company that controls Oakbay Resources and Energy Ltd. and owns stakes in information technology, mining and media companies in South Africa.

“For the last year we have been working to help Oakbay defend itself from attacks on its reputation, correcting misrepresentations and defending it and its owners from politically motivated attack,” Bell Pottinger said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. “In recent times, the tactics of Oakbay’s detractors have changed; Bell Pottinger has been targeted and become the story.”

Companies controlled by members of the Gupta family, who are also in business with Zuma’s son Duduzane, were dropped by their South African bankers, brokers and auditors last year, and the nation’s graft ombudsman implied that the president allowed the family to influence cabinet appointments and the issuing of state contracts. Zuma and the Guptas deny the allegations.

Bell Pottinger’s decision to cut ties with the Guptas was agreed upon by both parties and it has not seen evidence of wrongdoing by Oakbay, the company said in Wednesday’s statement.

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