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‘No one can question his greatness’ - Bell Pottinger co-founder Lord Tim Bell dies


By Stephen Lepitak, -

August 26, 2019 | 3 min read

Bell Pottinger co-founder and former communications advisor to Margaret Thatcher, Lord Tim Bell has died aged 77.

tim bell and francis ingham

Lord Tim Bell (right) and PRCA chair Francis Ingham with the Labour Isn't Working campaign

The communications head founded the public relations business as Lowe Bell in 1985, a subsidiary of Lowe Howard Spink, before buying it out four years later.

It became part of Chime Communications in 1994 and was renamed as Bell Pottinger after co-founder Frank Lowe requested his name be removed from the business.

The company would eventually enter administration in 2017 following a client exodus after reports over its involvement in stirring up racial tensions in South Africa. At the time the business employed around 250 people.

At the time, Bell was quoted as saying of the scandal: “As long as there is controversy about things there will be controversial characters. You can’t spend your life regretting what you do.”

Prior to that, he helped found and became the first managing director of Saatchi and Saatchi in 1970 alongside the Saatchi brothers.

However, Bell was best known as prime minister Thatcher’s media advisor for three elections, including her victory in 1979 where he was involved in creating the famous slogan ‘Labour isn’t Working’ which was used in the oft-cited 'greatest political advertising campaign' of all time.

Thatcher later nominated him for a knighthood, which was recognised in 1991. He would also become Baron Bell of Belgravia in the City of Westminster on 31 July 1998 following a nomination by another prime minister, Tony Blair.

Upon hearing of his passing, Francis Ingham, director general of the PRCA, told The Drum: “Of all those who can be said to have made the modern PR industry, Tim Bell stood preeminent, an undisputed giant who proved the power of communication. Nobody can question he was controversial, and indeed he delighted in being so. But nobody can question his greatness either.”

S4 Capital chairman, Sir Martin Sorrell, who worked alongside Bell at Saatchi and Saatchi and who invested in Bell Pottinger's ultimate parent company, Chime Communications through WPP, offered his own thoughts: "The real third brother [of the Saatchis]. The best client man of his generation and Mrs Thatcher’s communications genius, along with Gordon Reece. As Joe Root said of Ben Stokes yesterday, he was a freak. It’s a very sad day."

Another PR luminary Mark Borkowski said that despite disagreeing with his politics he "blazed a trail" during his career in advertising and communications.

Bell died surrounded by his family on Sunday 25 August 2019.


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