WPP CEO Martin Sorrell Steps Down

Chief executive officer of WPP Sir Martin Sorrell is stepping aside after 33 years with the firm

"However, I believe it is in the best interests of the business if I step down now", he said.

Martin Sorrell stepped down as the CEO of the world's largest advertising group WPP on Saturday after more than three decades in charge.

The company added that the allegations did "not involve amounts which are material to WPP", implying that the potential misuse of company funds form‎ed part of the probe.

The external pressures on the company have led WPP's board to conclude that it should explore a sale of Kantar, its market research arm, which could command a price tag of about £3bn.

However, Sorrell will assist with the transition as the company seeks a new leader.

In a parting memo to WPP's 200,000 employees obtained by AdAge, Sorrell explained that the firm's "current disruption" has come from "putting too much unnecessary pressure on the business".

Sir Martin said last week that he rejected the allegation "unreservedly but recognise that the company has to investigate it".

Roberto Quarta, chairman of WPP, moves into the executive chairman slot until a replacement for Sorrell is announced. "It has been a passion, focus and source of energy for so long", stated Sorrell in an emotional note to WPP staff.


Sorrell will "be treated as having retired on leaving WPP", with share awards pro-rated and vesting over the next five years, the FTSE 100 firm said.

He said that he leaves the company in "very good hands", with Read, Scott and the management team at all levels having the knowledge and abilities to take WPP to "even greater heights, as well as capitalise on the geographic and functional opportunities".

Read, who previously sat on WPP's main board, is well regarded in the industry while Scott was involved in its acquisition strategy and was not involved with clients.

He added: "We have weathered hard storms in the past". And our highly talented people have always won through, always.

A person familiar with the matter says the various mentions of alleged "personal misconduct" and "financial impropriety" in statements by WPP and Sorrell referred to the same thing. "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".

Said he: "I shall miss all of you greatly".

With WPP operating in more than countries, Sir Martin has cultivated a global reputation as a commentator on economic and political matters, forging relationships with government ministers, financiers and corporate bosses around the world. "Good fortune and Godspeed to all of you...now Back to the Future".

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