Earthquake in the marketing world, epicenter London. Martin Sorrell resigned on Saturday as the CEO of WPP, the world’s largest marketing services holding company and owner of firms including Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, and Ogilvy. His resignation followed a company investigation into his personal conduct. Here’s a brilliant recollection from John Tyree of how Sorrell went from a businessman who had never run an agency to "the world’s most famous ad man" (Campaign).
Why’d he do it? There are two theories in this article in The Wall Street Journal. One, Sorrell stepped down because he didn’t want the allegations to become public, according to a source close to WPP’s board. However, a source close to Sorrell threw cold water on that theory, telling the newspaper that the CEO left because he was exasperated with the handling of the investigation, not because he feared its details reaching the public (WSJ/MarketWatch).
What could happen next? The consensus is that WPP faces a herculean task replacing Sorrell (CNBC). Some analysts suggested the company could be broken into pieces. Another said it could sell its PR division to private equity or via management buyout. More immediately, a Monday morning drop in WPP’s share price dragged down London’s FTSE 100 (MarketWatch).
He’ll be ok... Sorrell, who has had several fierce and very public battles over his pay packages, could make as much as 20 million pounds from his shares of WPP over the next five years. He can share bonus awards but will receive no pension or payoff (BBC).
...but what will he do next? Here’s a very interesting theory. Sorrell could become a rival to his former company. The former WPP CEO could start another marketing network because he never signed a non-compete agreement with his former company (Financial Times). Insert popcorn emoji here.