WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell quits

Sir Martin Sorrell – the world’s most powerful advertising executive – has abruptly resigned.

His shock exit comes days after the WPP board instigated an investigation into an allegation of “personal misconduct”.

Sir Martin Sorrell

The announcement came through on Saturday night UK time, which was Sunday morning in Asia. The company is now hunting for a new CEO.

Under Sorrell’s 33-year-leadership, WPP went from shopping basked manufacturer Wire and Plastic Products to the world’s most dominant communications group WPP, with extensive interests across the world in media, public relations and creative agencies.

WPP’s media agencies include Mediacom, Mindshare, Essence, and the newly formed Wavemaker, which was created from the merger of MEC and Maxus. Its creative agencies include Ogilvy, JWT and Y&R. Its extensive PR operations include the Ogilvy PR group.

The company has a global market capitalisation of nearly $20bn although this has fallen in recent weeks.

Sorrell’s departure will likely see the company’s global share price pummelled by the market, which has been concerned for some time about the lack of a visible succession plan.

This weekend’s announcement says that businessman Roberto Quarta, who has been WPP’s chairman for the last three years, will stand in as executive chairman.

The company has also named Mark Read, who runs WPP’s digital operation Wunderman, and its European chief operating officer Andrew Scott as joint chief operating officers.

The announcement:

Good evening,

Sir Martin Sorrell has stepped down as Chief Executive Officer of WPP with immediate effect. Roberto Quarta, Chairman of WPP, becomes Executive Chairman until the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer.

Mark Read, Chief Executive Officer of Wunderman and WPP Digital, and Andrew Scott, WPP Corporate Development Director and Chief Operating Officer, Europe, have been appointed as joint Chief Operating Officers of WPP.

Sir Martin will be available to assist with the transition.

The previously announced investigation into an allegation of misconduct against Sir Martin has concluded. The allegation did not involve amounts that are material.

In accordance with his at-will employment agreement, Sir Martin will be treated as having retired on leaving WPP, as detailed in the Directors’ Compensation Policy. His share awards will be pro-rated in line with the plan rules and will vest over the next five years, to the extent Group performance targets are achieved.

Roberto Quarta said: “Sir Martin has been the driving force behind the expansion of WPP to create the global leader in marketing services. During this time, the Company has been successful because it has valued and nurtured outstanding talent at every level – within and well beyond our leadership teams. On behalf of the Board I would like to recognise these achievements and thank Sir Martin for his commitment to the business over more than three decades.”

Sir Martin Sorrell said: “Obviously I am sad to leave WPP after 33 years. It has been a passion, focus and source of energy for so long. However, I believe it is in the best interests of the business if I step down now. I leave the Company in very good hands, as the Board knows. Mark and Andrew and the management team at all levels have the knowledge and abilities to take WPP to even greater heights and capitalise on the geographic and functional opportunities. I will particularly miss the daily interactions with everyone across the world and want to thank them and their families for all they have done, and will do, for WPP.”


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