'Nobody can question his greatness' - tributes paid to Lord Tim Bell

Industry leaders have paid tribute to Lord Tim Bell, who has passed away, as a "giant of PR" who revolutionised the communications industry in spite of the controversy he attracted towards the end of his career.

Although not all agreed with his politics and some of the work of his former firm Bell Pottinger, Bell paid a pivotal role in shaping the modern communications industry.

Lord Chadlington, a close friend who introduced Lord Bell when he was inducted in the PRWeek UK Hall of Fame in 2016, said Bell was the first person to understand how integrated communications works. 

"Advertising, public relations, interpreting research, sales promotion – he excelled at them all," Chadlington said.

"Tim had - like all of us - his failings. Sadly, some of these were all too public. But nobody - absolutely nobody - has done more to make PR a respectable profession and the aspiration of a generation of young graduates.

"Whether we are his friends, his work colleagues or his clients, we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude."

The communications agency that Bell founded with Piers Pottinger was one of the UK's largest during its peak, and also one of the most controversial. The agency was expelled from the PRCA in 2017 for its work for the Gupta brothers in South Africa, a scandal that tarnished Bell's reputation towards the end of his career.

Despite this, PRCA director general Francis Ingham said that of all who can be said to have made the modern PR and communications industry, "Bell stood preeminent, an undisputed giant who proved the power of communication".

He added: "Nobody can question he was controversial, and indeed he delighted in being so. But nobody can question his greatness either."

Michael Moszynski, the founder and chief executive of London Advertising who worked with Bell had on some "esoteric clients, such as the president of Congo-Brazzaville", reflected on Bell’s time in the ad industry.

"His first role in the ad industry was as the media man in the fledgling Saatchi & Saatchi in the early 1970s, where soon the brothers’ dependency on his ability as an all-round fixer/managing director resulted in him earning the sobriquet ‘the third Saatchi’," Moszynski said.

Cordelia Meacher, the founder of FieldHouse Associates, said: "While undeniably controversial sometimes, Tim was such a great man. He was very supportive and kind to me (and many others I gather), and I'll never forget that."

Others from the PR and media industries paid tribute to Lord Bell on social media.

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