Dods Group and Lord Bell make loans totalling £1m to start-up Sans Frontières

Sans Frontières Associates, the agency set up last year by a former Bell Pottinger partner and chaired by Lord Bell, has been given interest-free loans totalling £1m by its chair and investor Dods Group.

The £700,000 loan from Dods, payable within five years, is revealed in the media, research and monitoring group's interim results for the year to 30 September, published today. An additional £350,000 loan on the same term has been put up by Bell (pictured above).

Dods has a 40 per cent stake in geopolitical specialist Sans Frontières, with founder and MD Jonathan Lehrle owning the same proportion and Lord Bell holding the remaining 20 per cent share.

Lehrle told PRWeek: "The mechanics always were that I would set up the company and then invite in investors. I set up Sans Frontieres Associates in the second half of 2016, with both Dods and Lord Bell investing in February 2017. Sans Frontières Associates will pay back the loans as soon as the accounts will allow it, or at the five-year point."

Bell had announced in August last year, when he left Bell Pottinger, that he was involved in the formation of San Frontières. He had previously worked with Lehrle for eight years at Bell Pottinger and its then-sister business, also called Sans Frontières. The new Sans Frontières has since taken on Philip Peck, a mid-level Bell Pottinger staffer on the Oakbay account which led to the firm's downfall.

With 44 per cent, Dods' largest shareholder is Lord Ashcroft, the pollster and former Conservative treasurer and deputy chair. Its half-year revenue was £10m.

A separate announcement from Dods Group today says that it has acquired a 30 per cent stake in Social360, a social media monitoring and intelligence services for corporate comms and public affairs clients. The deal also gives Dods the option to purchase the remaining shares in the future.

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