Published: Sun, April 15, 2018
Business | By Kate Woods

WPP CEO Martin Sorrell resigns after misconduct investigation

WPP CEO Martin Sorrell resigns after misconduct investigation

Sorrell was set to join the rest of the board early next week for scheduled meetings ahead of the company's quarterly results, making a quick resolution of the probe nearly inevitable.

Sir Martin Sorrell said: "Obviously I am sad to leave WPP after 33 years".

"As I look ahead, I see that the current disruption 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", he said. "However, I believe it is in the best interests of the business if I step down now", Sorrell said.

Sir Martin is also likely to be allowed to retain on a pro rata basis significant amounts of unvested WPP stock which would be released, based on the company's performance, over the coming years, sources said. Sorrell has denied the allegations, details of which have yet to publicly surface.

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His legacy as one of the titans of the advertising industry is secure. He had lost the unanimous backing of the board and, at 73, he is no spring chicken by chief executive standards.

Roberto Quarta, WPP's chairman, has been appointed executive chairman until the appointment of a new chief executive.

"During this time, the company has been successful because it has valued and nurtured outstanding talent at every level". I reject the allegation unreservedly but recognize that the company has to investigate it.

Born in London, Sorrell studied economics at the University of Cambridge and then gained a masters from Harvard University.

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Some multinational advertisers, including P&G, which owns ‎Ariel and Gillette, have signalled their intention to take more of their marketing services activity in-house, reducing the lucrative work for which they are charged by external agencies. He took a United Kingdom manufacturer of wire baskets and built it into a worldwide provider of advertising, public relations and marketing services through a series of takeovers.

The firm has grown into one of the world's largest communications groups and now has some 3,000 offices. Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 2000 with a tap of her sword on his shoulders, the highest honor among a raft of awards he has received for his business acumen throughout the years.

Sorrell was the highest-paid CEO among FTSE 100 companies in both 2015 and 2016, according to a study released previous year by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the High Pay Centre.

However, he always fiercely defended his income, saying it was related to how well the company he started from nothing was doing.

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But beyond the investigation that leaked this month, there were other signs Sorrell was losing his magic touch.

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