New name for Asian unit of Bell Pottinger after split

Just a day after saying it was mulling over a name change, Bell Pottinger Asia has told clients that it has indeed formally separated from its troubled parent and taken on a new identity.

The public relations company will now be known as Klareco Communications, chief executive Ang Shih-Huei and Singapore managing director Mark Worthington said in an e-mail yesterday.

The firm, which represents major corporations in sectors such as energy, property and transport, has been reassuring clients in the region over the past week that business is continuing as usual, and that its management team remains intact despite the crisis that has engulfed Bell Pottinger, its London-based parent.

The British company has put itself up for sale after being expelled from Britain's PR industry body and losing several clients.

Its chief executive and majority shareholder, Mr James Henderson, and the head of its financial PR division, Mr John Sunnucks, have quit.

The crisis was the result of a scandal over a social media campaign that a Bell Pottinger team mounted for a wealthy family linked to South African President Jacob Zuma, which was accused of being racially divisive.

Bell Pottinger Asia, however, was always a separate legal entity that was run independently and autonomously, although Bell Pottinger was a major shareholder, Ms Ang told The Straits Times in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

It is now in the midst of formally separating, and the new entity Klareco will eventually be owned by the existing senior management team in Asia.

In an e-mail to clients, Ms Ang and Mr Worthington said: "Our team in Asia will be relaunching under a new ownership structure with a new name, and a renewed vigour and clarity of purpose."

While the British operation is expected to go into administration as early as next week, the Asia business is entirely ring-fenced and solvent, they noted.

"Our teams are intact, we continue to serve our clients and it is entirely business as usual."

They added that the new name, Klareco, "underlines the diversity and inclusive values of this team, and our aspirations for the future".

Klareco means clarity in Esperanto.

Mr Worthington also noted on Thursday that the firm's clients in Singapore - all of whom were signed on locally and not via the London office - have been supportive, with some promising not to leave for other PR agencies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2017, with the headline 'New name for Asian unit of Bell Pottinger after split'. Print Edition | Subscribe