Martin Sorrell quits as head of world’s biggest ad group WPP

Sir Martin Sorrell, pictured at the World Economic Forum in Davos, has stepped down as CEO of WPP.
Updated 15 April 2018

Martin Sorrell quits as head of world’s biggest ad group WPP

  • CEO quits after 33 years at the top
  • Sorrell had been under investigation by board

Martin Sorrell, who built WPP into the world’s biggest advertising agency through 33 years of dealmaking, quit on Saturday after an allegation of personal misconduct.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
The company will consider internal and external candidates for the top job in a process that could take several months.
“Obviously I am sad to leave WPP after 33 years,” Sorrell said in a statement. “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.”
WPP said the investigation, which regarded financial impropriety, had concluded. It made no further comment but repeated a previous statement that the allegation did not involve amounts that were material to the company.
A source close to Sorrell said he had been unhappy with how the investigation was handled, leaving him uncertain whether he could work with the board again.
Analysts have speculated that the sprawling group, which was being restructured after a year of lower spending from some clients, could now sell off some assets if led by different management.
The longest-serving CEO on the FTSE 100 blue chip index, Sorrell built WPP into one of Britain’s biggest companies by three decades of relentless dealmaking. He is one of the most high profile, and best paid, executives in the country.
In his time the group expanded to own top creative agencies including J. Walter Thompson and Young & Rubicam, as well as media planners and buyers, market-research firms and public relations groups such as Finsbury.
Present in 112 countries, WPP serves clients including Ford, Unilever, P&G and a string of major corporations around the world.
It largely outperformed its peers Omnicom, Publicis and IPG in the years that followed the financial crisis as the group pitched aggressively for new work. But it has been hit in the last 18 months by a downturn in spending from consumer goods groups Unilever and P&G, and the loss of some big accounts.
The migration of advertising online and the encroachment into market research of consultancies such as Accenture have compounded the pressures. Its shares are down around 30 percent this year.
The company said Sorrell would be available to assist with the transition, and the man synonymous with the British marketing group told the staff they would come through this difficult time.
“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,” Sorrell said. “Good fortune and Godspeed to all of you. Now back to the future.”


G20 ministers agree to keep markets open, tackle pandemic supply disruptions

Updated 35 min 59 sec ago

G20 ministers agree to keep markets open, tackle pandemic supply disruptions

  • G20 leaders pledged last week to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the coronavirus outbreak
  • The coronavirus has infected nearly 738,500 people worldwide and killed some 35,000

RIYADH/WASHINGTON: Trade ministers from the Group of 20 major economies agreed on Monday to keep their markets open and ensure the continued flow of vital medical supplies, equipment and other essential goods as the world battles the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
G20 leaders pledged last week to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the coronavirus outbreak, while working to ease supply disruptions caused by border closures by national governments anxious to limit transmission of the virus.
In a joint statement issued after a videoconference, the trade ministers pledged to take “immediate necessary measures” to facilitate trade, incentivize additional production of equipment and drugs, and minimize supply chain disruptions.
They agreed that all emergency measures should be “targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary,” while sticking to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and not creating “unnecessary barriers” to trade.
They also vowed to work to prevent profiteering and unjustified price increases, and keep supplies flowing on an affordable and equitable basis.
“As we fight the pandemic both individually and collectively and seek to mitigate its impacts on international trade and investment, we will continue to work together to deliver a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open,” the ministers said.
They agreed to notify the WTO about any trade-related measures taken to keep global supply chains running and said they would convene again as necessary.
The ministers, however, stopped short of explicitly calling for an end to export bans that many countries, including G20 members France, Germany and India, have enacted on drugs and medical supplies. A key adviser to US President Donald Trump is working on new rules to expand “Buy America” mandates to the medical equipment and pharmaceutical sectors, something that dozens of business groups said could worsen shortages.
The joint statement included the phrase “consistent with national requirements” already used by G20 leaders, which experts say could provide a loophole for protectionist barriers.
Lack of protective medical gear is putting doctors and nurses at risk. Many countries rely on China, the source of the outbreak, for drug ingredients and are struggling to avoid shortages after lockdown measures prompted by the epidemic held up supplies and delayed shipments.
Supply chains are backing up as air freight capacity plunges and companies struggle to find truck drivers and shipping crews. Europe and the United States are short of tens of thousands of freight containers. Shippers struggle with crew shortages and quarantines at ports. Agriculture is also being disrupted.
The ministerial video conference was attended by representatives from the WTO, World Health Organization and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
A senior World Bank official urged G20 members to agree to refrain from imposing new export restrictions on critical medical supplies, food or other key products, and to eliminate or reduce tariffs on imports of key products.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told the ministers during the meeting that the pandemic had revealed vulnerabilities in the US economy caused by over-dependence on cheap medical supplies from other countries. He did not reference the “Buy America” rule specifically, but said Washington was encouraging diversification and wanted to promote more domestic manufacturing to produce more suppliers for the United States and others.
G20 finance ministers and central bankers will also meet virtually, on Tuesday, for the second time in just over a week to continue coordinating their response, the Saudi G20 secretariat said, as worries grow about the debt crisis looming over poorer countries.
Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama told counterparts that both the public and private sectors should try to avoid shutting supply networks to enable an early resumption of economic activities.
The coronavirus has infected nearly 738,500 people worldwide and killed some 35,000, and has plunged the world into a global recession, according to International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva.