Features

It’s not about revenge on WPP, but building new businesses – says APAC S4 Capital CEO Michel de Rijk

In a candid discussion with Mumbrella’s Dean Carroll, new S4 Capital Asia-Pacific CEO Michel de Rijk sets out what is in store from Sir Martin Sorrell’s new venture – and it is not ‘revenge’ on his former company WPP

In terms of acquisitions, what type of companies will you be looking to buy and why?

“S4 Capital is looking to acquire companies in the content, digital media planning and buying and first party data space. This can be global or regional operating businesses.”

Why Singapore as your base and why Singapore as S4 Capital’s APAC HQ?

“Singapore has a successful MediaMonks operation, great support from government bodies, access to local and regional clients, qualitative talent and happens to be my homebase for the last seven years.

“Avoiding the disruption of moving my family to another country makes sure I can fully focus on the success of S4 Capital.”

Will you be building your own team as well as making acquisitions and, if so, what will that team look like?

“It will be a combination of both. Sir Martin is looking at a few acquisitions and with these key assets it will be our focus to grow organically across the region.”

What prompted you to make the switch from WPP to the new company of the former WPP boss?

“I have had great years with WPP, GroupM, Xaxis and I am thankful for the opportunity. Being able to build a start-up within a holding company is truly an experience of a lifetime.

“After Xaxis, being able to spread the power of cutting edge technology across the wider group with [m]Platform and help other ‘start-ups’ during my last remit for the Performance Media Group completed a journey.

“I realised that my true passion is to build new, innovative businesses from the ground up. When Sir Martin called and explained to me his new vision, I was interested.

“Follow-up conversations with the MediaMonks management was the final confirmation, for what I believe is an amazing journey to come.”

What can S4 Capital offer clients that no other holding company or agency does?

“Bridge the gap between creative production and digital media execution to deliver better ROI to advertisers. Faster, better and more efficient.”

What is the end goal for 2019, what are the key things you want to achieve in the next 12 months?

“Establish a content, media planning and buying offering in our key regional markets (China, Singapore, Australia, India & Japan).”

Did you resign from WPP or were you pushed?

“Resigned.”

Does your relationship with Martin Sorrell go back a long way?

“I have worked for WPP for seven years.”

What do you admire most about him?

“Admire is a big word, but for someone who has achieved everything in this industry that is possible, to start a new company and be determined to make it his biggest success, is something to respect and be part of.”

Which market in Asia has the biggest potential for S4 Capital and why?

“Asia-Pacific as a region is a huge opportunity for S4 Capital. We have set our focus on a few key markets now, but long term we want to be able to serve all our clients in all markets.

“In what order it will happen depends on where our clients want us to support them.”

Is S4 Capital going to remain as the name of the company for the long term? It is not the most engaging moniker for a client-facing organisation.

“S4 Capital is not the client-facing brand. I’m sure over time our positioning will be more clear.”

What is the reporting structure within the company? Do you report straight into Martin Sorrell?

“It is a flat organisation and we all work closely together as a management team.”

Who do you see as S4 Capital’s competition now?

“There is no company you can compare with S4 Capital; there are several competitors in the different areas S4 Capital is or will be active.”

What do you say to those out in the market who say that S4 Capital just looks like a revenge play against WPP?

“It’s the short-sightedness of ‘those’ that surprises me the most.”

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