Lord Bell, controversial Bell Pottinger founder, dies at 77

Josh Hall's picture
by Josh Hall

Tim Bell, the founder of PR firm Bell Pottinger and longtime ally of Margaret Thatcher, has died.

Bell began his career in advertising, eventually rising to the position of managing director at Saatchi & Saatchi.

The firm went on to become the Conservative Party's agency under Thatcher, and Bell quickly developed a strong bond with the future prime minister.

In 1989 Bell and his business partner Piers Pottinger opened what would become Bell Pottinger. It adopted its final name in 1998.

Bell and his company are perhaps best-known for the infamous and much-parodied "Labour isn't working" poster, and for encouraging the alliance between the Tories and Rupert Murdoch that would play a defining role in British politics for decades.

The firm went on to become one of the most controversial PR companies in the world, reportedly accepting work including projects in Iraq for the Pentagon.

The company eventually folded in 2017 after it was revealed that it had run a campaign that stoked racial tension in South Africa.

Commenting on his co-founder's death, Pottinger said: "He was a devoted family man and passionate supporter of the Conservative Party, most famously helping Margaret Thatcher win three general elections,."

"He was an inspiration to everyone who worked with him. Most importantly to me, he was always a true and loyal friend. Nobody can replace him."

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