Business Day is reporting that Rupert believes the agency – which had until recently been contracted to the Richemont group before being snatched up the Gupta family this year to smooth over the family’s reputation in SA – is deliberately driving a negative narrative about his family to deflect attention away from its controversial client.
Rupert is said to have told shareholders this week that the luxury brands group had hired Bell Pottinger for a period between 15 to 18 years before the agency ditched it for the Guptas.
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“And whilst they were still in the employment of Richemont they started working for the Guptas. The very same person… Their total task was to deflect, guess who they took as a target? A client of theirs… me,” he was quoted saying in the report.
He has vehemently denied claims that Remgro in any way influenced the media, saying that while Remgro owns shares in several media houses, the company had never got involved in management issues.
Remgro owns a minority stake in eMedia (owners of eNCA, E-tv, OpenView HD) as well as Kagiso and Caxton.
“The late Eric Molobi got us invested in media [via Kagiso]. I have never been to the offices of e-tv… I don’t even know where Caxton is, Terry [Moolman] runs that,” Rupert was quoted saying.
“We have never done business with the state, ever. Firstly, I didn’t trust the previous bunch and I don’t trust these. We have zero influence on the media or the companies we are invested in. So it’s getting a little tedious.”
Staunch supporters of President Jacob Zuma have over the months driven the narrative that if Zuma’s close relationship to the Guptas amounted to state capture, then the Rupert and Oppenheimer families should also be investigated for state capture for their close ties to and alleged influence over late former President Nelson Mandela.
Mandela famously consulted Rupert’s father, Anton, ahead of former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni’s appointment to the post. Rupert himself has also been linked to consultations before major strategic appointments were made.
“The attacks used to come from the right, now they come from the left. It’s not fun and it’s steered by Bell Pottinger,” he said.
Victoria Geoghegan, an executive for Bell Pottinger, rubbished Rupert’s claims.