Sir Martin Sorrell – the world’s most powerful advertising executive and the man who built WPP into the world’s biggest advertising agency through 33 years of dealmaking, quit on Saturday after an allegation of personal misconduct.
Sir Martin Sorrell said on Saturday that he was stepping down as head of the British-based global advertising agency WPP.
Sir Martin Sorrell, in a letter to WPP staff, Sorrell said the “current disruption” was “putting too much unnecessary pressure on the business”.
He said he had decided that “in your interest, in the interest of our clients, in the interest of all shareowners, both big and small, and in the interest of all our other stakeholders, it is best for me to step aside”.
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 Sorrell 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 recognize 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 capitalize 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.”
The departure of the CEO who built a two-man outfit into one of Britain’s biggest companies with 200,000 staff in 112 countries leaves WPP without a boss at a pivotal time for the industry and when the group is under great strain.
WPP stunned the market last week when it said it had appointed lawyers to investigate alleged misconduct by Sorrell. He denied the allegations but in a letter to WPP staff published late on Saturday he said the “current disruption” was “putting too much unnecessary pressure on the business”.
Chairman Roberto Quarta will become executive chairman until a new chief executive is found, while Mark Read, a WPP digital executive, and Andrew Scott, chief operating officer, Europe, have been appointed as joint chief operating officers.
WPP’s media agencies include Mediacom, Mindshare, Essence, and the newly formed Wavemaker, which was created by the merger of MEC and Maxus. Its creative agencies include Ogilvy, JWT, Y&R, and WhiteGrey. Its extensive PR operations include the Ogilvy PR group.
WPP has a global market capitalization of nearly $20bn, although this has fallen in recent weeks.
About Sir Martin Sorrell:- In 1985 Martin Sorrell took a controlling stake in Wire & Plastic Products, a small UK manufacturer of shopping baskets and teapots. Today WPP is the world leader in advertising and marketing services, and home to many of the industry’s most admired agencies. The group employs over 200,000 people in 112 countries, and its clients include 369 of the Fortune Global 500, all 30 of the Dow Jones 30 and 71 of the NASDAQ 100. In 2017, for the second year running, Sir Martin was named as Britain’s best-performing CEO and the second best-performing in the world by Harvard Business Review.