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WPP Chief Martin Sorrell quits after more than 3 decades

Sir Martin Sorrell bids adieu to WPP after 33 years as CEO

Looks like 2018 has not been the kindest of years for Martin Sorrell.

Early March, Martin was under massive pressure after it was reported that the advertising group’s shares were almost down 13 percent

The traditional ad agency has been under tremendous pressure as the power in the industry has shifted to technology giants like Facebook and Google.

Two weeks ago on the third of April, the Chief Executive was under investigation after an allegation of personal misconduct. The 73-year-old denied the misconduct allegation, which involves the improper use of company funds and allegations of improper personal behaviour.

Just a few hours ago, Sir Martin Sorrell stepped down as the Chief Executive of the world’s largest advertising agency after 33 years. The company has stated that Martin’s departure will be treated as a retirement. However, neither Martin nor WPP made any comment about the findings of the investigation.

“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,” said Martin.

Wunderman CEO Mark Read and Andrew Scott, who is WPP’s corporate development director and chief operating officer for Europe, will share the chief operating officer role.

The 73-year-old founded the company in 1986, helping to transform a little-known U.K. wire-shopping-basket manufacturer called Wire & Plastic Products into the largest advertising holding company in the world. It boasts numerous blue-chip creative agencies like J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather. Today, WPP is a global advertising behemoth with 130,000 employees in 112 countries, and a market valuation of about $31 billion.

However, Martin one of the most highly paid executives in the world won’t be walking away empty-handed. His stock option awards will be prorated and will vest over the next five years, based on the achievement of the company’s performance targets, said WPP. In 2015, Martin took home a whopping paycheck of $62 million in 2017. As of last year, the ad king was said to have a net worth of over $700 million.

ExWPP Global Creative Godfather Neil French commented, “An elephant may be stung by ants, but it is still an elephant. Martin made some mistakes (don’t we all), but he remains an elephant.”

This was Martin’s last statement to his 200,000 staff in WPP:

“To everyone at WPP,

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. We welcomed J Walter Thompson, Ogilvy, Young & Rubicam, Grey, 24/7 Real Media, Taylor Nelson Sofres, among so many others. We created Group M, 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.

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.

Thank you.”

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