Lord Bell (Tim to you and me) is quitting as chairman of PR firm Bell Pottinger to set up a new outfit, Sans Frontières.
By the sounds of it Sans Frontières will roam the wilder shore of PR and communications, in line with Bell’s seeming predilection for authoritarian regimes. In this at least he shares a trait with former PM Tony Blair. Or it could just be that such regimes pay better.
Bell (below), 74, still owns seven per cent of Bell Pottinger, the company he and Piers Pottinger bought out of Chime Communications. He will be replaced as chairman by Chime COO Mark Smith, which suggests that Bell Pottinger might be getting back in bed with Chime, now owned by Providence Equity and WPP. Such a deal would not appeal to Bell who has had his disagreements with WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell, one-time finance director of Saatchi & Saatchi when Bell ruled the roost under the brothers as MD.
Bell switched horses from advertising to PR when he fell out with Charles Saatchi and briefly joined Frank Lowe at Lowe Bell. Earlier he had established himself as a key adviser to Tory PM Margaret Thatcher.
Whispering words of wisdom in the ears of politicians and others is rather more straightforward these days than fighting through ad campaigns and succeeding in being paid for them. But it would be a shame if we’ve seen the last of the colourful Bell in the big time, even if some of his views can be pretty hair-raising.