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Sir Martin Sorrell steps down as WPP chief

15 April 2018

Sir Martin Sorrell is bringing the curtain down on a 32-year career as chief executive of WPP Group, the ‎marketing services giant, weeks after its board launched a probe into an allegation of improper personal conduct.

The departure of Sorrell, who resigned on Saturday before learning the findings of an internal investigation into alleged personal misconduct, is also being viewed as a potential catalyst for a break-up of WPP. The exact value depends on the company's performance. WPP now has a consensus rating of "Hold" and a consensus price target of $107.00.

The reasons for his departure have not been made public, although the investigation, which was only revealed at the start of the month, has now finished.

"Sir Martin Sorrell has stepped down as chief executive officer of WPP with immediate effect", the holding company said in a statement.

"It wasn't a boardroom battle but the way they behaved in his eyes, the manner they handled the investigation, in the end he thought I'm 73-years old I don't need this s**t", one person close to the process said.

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Sorrell became one of the highest paid executives in the world during his three decades at WPP, building the firm into an advertising and marketing powerhouse. His £70m payout in 2015 was one of the biggest in United Kingdom corporate history.

Sorrell's last few words in his farewell note will not only tug at WPP staff's heartstrings but nearly anyone's.

Roberto Quarta, chairman of WPP, moves into the executive chairman slot until a replacement for Sorrell is announced.

Andrew Scott, WPP's corporate development director and Europe COO, and Mark Read, Wunderman CEO, will share the COO roles at WPP.

"Mark and Andrew are both highly accomplished and experienced executives who have the board's complete confidence", Quarta said in an emailed note to employees, a copy of which was seen by Bloomberg.

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Several people who have attended WPP board meetings in the past identified Sol Trujillo, a former USA telecoms boss, as a non-executive director who sometimes asked the most challenging questions.

The statement concluded "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".

The company's board is already running the rule over whether it should explore a sale of Kantar, its market research arm, which could be worth £3bn.

He estimates there is £1bn of property and £1.1bn of equity investments in companies including Vice, digital firm AppNexus, measurement company comScore and advertising group Chime.

WPP's stock has fallen 22% in the past year amid sluggish growth.

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Sir Martin Sorrell steps down as WPP chief