‘We’re going through structural change, not structural decline,’ says new WPP chief Mark Read

WPP has confirmed the appointment of Mark Read as successor to Martin Sorrell with the new chief executive setting out plans to “increase the pace of change”.

Chairman Roberto Quarta said there was “no doubt” that Read, chief operating officer for the past six months, was the man for the job.

Read, who was also CEO of digital agency Wunderman, will earn a basic salary of £975,000 ($1.73m) with additional bonuses and share options.

The appointment, which had been widely expected, will end the uncertainty at WPP following the bitter departure of Martin Sorrell in April.

In a memo, Read gave staff a broad overview of where he wants to take the business.

“Our mission now is to build on our strengths, increase the pace of change, and release the full potential that exists within WPP for the benefit of our clients. By doing that, we’ll get ourselves in the best shape to deliver stronger growth for our share owners,” he wrote.

“I see WPP as a modern, vibrant organisation that works as a team to help our clients succeed and grow through an integrated offer of marketing, consulting and technology services. Our spirit of creativity will always be at the heart of what we do, but pairing that with expertise in technology and data is vital.

“Access to our wealth of talent and resources will be even simpler for our clients. We’ll be absolutely focused on what our clients need, and we won’t let our own structures distract us or get in the way. As part of that simplification we’ll adopt much more of a common approach to things like technology, data and production. And we’ll invest in new areas – such as artificial intelligence and programmatic media – that are reshaping our industry.

“To help us achieve all these aims, we’ll foster a culture that attracts the best and brightest: inclusive, respectful, collaborative, diverse. Building the new WPP will be a shared endeavour and I’m looking forward to working with and listening to people throughout the company as we develop our plans for the future.”

Read also repeated comments that appeared in the official announcement; the industry is going through change, not decline.

“Some commentators have questioned the prospects for our industry, but I believe they are bright,” he wrote. “We’re going through a period of structural change, not structural decline, and if we embrace that change we’ll have an exciting and successful future ahead of us”

In a statement, Quarta said: “The Board carried out a rigorous selection process, assessing internal and external candidates. That process, alongside Mark’s wise and effective stewardship of the business in the last few months, left us with no doubt that he is the right leader for this company, and we are delighted to announce the Board’s unanimous decision to appoint him as Chief Executive Officer of WPP,” Quarta said in a statement.

Quarta said Read was recognised for his leadership throughout the industry, his intimate understanding of the business and his strong internal support.

Read has also “earned the respect and endorsement of our clients with his constant focus on their needs”, he said, adding the priority for Read, management team and the board is to “build on WPP’s position of strength, while pursuing a clear vision for change and value creation”.

In addition to his basic salary of just under £1m, Read will receive an annual bonus of up to 250% of salary with mandatory deferral of at least 40% of bonus into shares, deferred for a two-year period.

The package also includes a long term incentive plan of 350% of salary, with performance measured over a five-year period.

Andrew Scott will continue in his role as chief operating officer of WPP on a permanent basis.

Read’s appointment will see Quarta resume his role as non-executive chairman.



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