End of era as Sir Martin Sorrell steps down as chief executive of WPP with immediate effect

Thumbnail image for Sir-Martin-Sorrell.jpg
FIRST ON CB: In a move that will surely cause shock waves throughout the global ad industry, 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.
Says Quarta: "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."
Says Sorrell: "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."

Sorrell also issued a note to WPP's 200,000 employees worldwide:

"For the past 33 years, I have spent every single day thinking about the future of WPP. Over those decades, our family has grown and prospered," he wrote. "We welcomed J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy, Young & Rubicam, Grey, 24/7 Real Media, Taylor Nelson Sofres, among so many others. We created GroupM, including Xaxis and Essence.

"We put the focus on Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East and Central Eastern Europe, the home of the next billion consumers. We embarked on the early development of digital capabilities; and the evolution of a firm-wide integrated client and country-centered approach.

"Our holding company was recognized as the world's best and most effective through the Cannes Lions and Effie Awards year after year after year.

"We pioneered Atticus Awards for original written thinking.... the WPP Fellowship Awards to recognize promising talent.... the Partnership and Practice Awards for client endorsed integrated market and case studies. Our Stream digital conferences have attracted the best in the digital business for more than a decade. Our Annual Sustainability and Pro Bono Reports highlight the unique social, environmental and public policy work that we do day in, day out across the globe.

"As I look ahead, I see that the current disruption we are experiencing is simply putting too much unnecessary pressure on the business, our over 200,000 people and their 500,000 or so dependents, and the clients we serve in 112 countries. That is why I have 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.

"We have had a succession plan in place for some time. A new generation of management, led by Mark Read and Andrew Scott (who have each been at WPP for approximately 20 years), are well qualified and experienced in the Board's opinion, to deal with the geographic and technological opportunities and challenges our industry faces. We have weathered difficult storms in the past. And our highly talented people have always won through, always. Nobody, either direct competitors or newly-minted ones can beat the WPP team, as long as you work closely together, whether by client and/or country or digitally.

"In the coming period, I will be available to the Board and any of you, should you want help with anything, anywhere. I shall miss all of you greatly. You have given me such excitement and energy and I wanted to thank you for everything you have done and will do for WPP and me. As some of you know, my family has expanded recently, WPP will always be my baby too.

"As a Founder, I can say that WPP is not just a matter of life or death, it was, is and will be more important than that. Good fortune and Godspeed to all of you...now Back to the Future."


Smell you later said:

The odious little man has left the building but the stink still remains.

Knights in the Hood said:

So will he be stripped of his knighthood?

Interesting said:

Whatever he was being investigated for must have been pretty bad. Sadly, it will be buried...

Finally said:

Anyone thats worked for this man knows what comes from the top down is greed, insecurity, fear and greed.

Good riddance to what has been a stain on the industry for years, you know as a WPP employee that this man practices nothing he preaches.

I've lost count of the talent that's left this industry after a taste of an inane WPP office.

lo said:

He fucked over advertising like no other human being before him.

In a relentless, ruthless drive for higher and higher profits he decimated agencies worldwide.

When he bought Grey in the UK, his email to management was 'sack 2 out of every 5, I don't care which 2.'

He made a lot of money for himself.

He made a lot of money for shareholders.

And the behaviour of holding companies and their almost complete disregard for the product comes directly from him.

And he'll be just fine.

Henry said:


Agencies were badly run and lacked financial / business credibility for Sorrell.

Yes, he was never a product man.

But he understood the business of agencies like no one else has, even investing in Xaxis before programmatic started to become an anchor of businesses.

Of course there was a drive for profits. That was his job. I don't get why creative people seem to prioritise purpose over profits so much. If you want to that, go be a fucking artist.

In the meantime, we've got shit to sell and people to influence.

Jesus said:

Would it be too much to hope that the WPP culture (aka Why Pay People?) will change with a new muppet at the top?

Former Young Turk said:

Well, he was always very cordial and polite in the lift at Saatchi's London.

Company Man said:

^^^ commenter works at Y&R?

WPP Alcohol Policy said:

Does this mean we get our drinks trolley back?

If only said:

If only we could claim damages for all the bullying and nastiness he bred.

That'll learn him! said:

No more board meetings, shareholder grillings or industry politics.

All he has left is a jet, a helicopter, a yacht, a handful of luxury villas in the world's coolest cities, billions of squid and a ton of free time on his hands.

Poor, poor man. How's he ever going to cope?

ANDY said:

I believe Ogilvy called him an odious little shit.Ogilvy was always a
good judge of character.
Sunk by his new wife’s company spending I believe.

Groucho said:

@That’ll learn him. Karma has a way of dealing with this. And it will find him in whatever luxury he’s in bought with the sweat of real humans.

Reality check.T said:

He thought he could control everything.Then he fell for a pretty new girl and married her. And no little bookkeeper can ever control that. There’s no fool like an old fool.Karma will always bite you on the arse. This one has lipstick on it.

@ Reality check said:

Here's hoping she spends everything he's got, then ends up on one of Sorrell's yachts - which she gets to keep in the divorce.

Reality check.T said:

I did not write that last post. Get your own pseudonym

Leave a comment