Rolls-Royce signals end of Bell Pottinger account

Aerospace firm to bring public affairs work in-house after nine years with Chime agency.

Rolls-Royce is taking its flagship public affairs work in-house from Bell Pottinger as speculation over the future of the agency mounts.

PRWeek can reveal that the aerospace company is to end its nine-year relationship with the Chime Communications-owned agency.

A Rolls-Royce spokesman denied that the move had come as a result of recent high-profile concerns around Bell Pottinger's lobbying activities and ethics.

He said: 'We have built up a competency in-house and no longer require external support.

'This is no reflection on the agency, with which we worked for a number of years.'

Helen Kennett joined the firm in 2010 from Thales UK to become director of UK government relations, while former BT comms head Peter Morgan took the firm's top comms job in 2009.

Rolls-Royce, the world's second biggest maker of aircraft engines behind General Electric, had used Bell Pottinger Public Affairs since 2003.

The news follows a period of intense scrutiny over Bell Pottinger's public affairs division following last December's sting operation by The Independent. It is thought the unrest caused by The Independent splash and its fallout was a key driver behind Lord Bell and Piers Pottinger's efforts to take a significant amount of Chime's PR business back into private hands.

PRWeek went to press before Wednesday's announcement of Chime's 2011 preliminary results, which were expected to include further guidance on the plans.

However, Bell's efforts to take his PR agency private were dealt a blow last week when Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of significant Chime shareholder WPP, told the London Evening Standard the plans 'sets a terrible precedent' and were not 'logical'.

TIMELINE

31 January 2012: Lord Bell and Piers Pottinger allowed to pursue an acquisition of Chime's PR businesses.

13 January 2012: Bell invites Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to train his staff on the ethical use of the site.

6 December 2011: The Independent prints an expose of a meeting with Bell Pottinger after journalists posed as members of fictitious Uzbek firm Azimov Group.

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