Shong’s resignation two days ago came with WPP in talks with Chinese companies Tencent, Alibaba, and China Media Capital about them buying 20% of its Chinese operations. The talks date back to Sorrell’s time at the holding company.
The founder of CMC, Li Ruigang, is the only remaining non-executive director from China on WPP’s board following the resignation of Shong, who is the global chairman of China-focused publishing and venture capital group IDG.
Reacting to Shong’s resignation, Sorrell told Sky News: "As a shareowner, I’m very saddened and disturbed by the departure of Hugo Shong from the WPP board, particularly at a time when WPP is trying to develop and reposition its business in China.
"Along with Ruigang-Li, over the last [six] years, he has been a significant factor in the growth and development of WPP's China business in what is now its third largest market," he added. "It is not good news."
Sorrell has previously hit out at WPP, the company he built into the world's largest marketing services group, following his abrupt departure in April over an investigation into misconduct involving company funds. At Cannes Lions last month, he complained about his treatment by WPP and blamed a high-level leak for his exit.
A WPP spokesman provided the following statement in reaction to Sorrell’s remarks: "While the board was sorry that Hugo felt he could no longer serve as a director with the increased pressure on his time and availability, it is pleased that he will continue to assist WPP's businesses in China going forward, and WPP's board is also privileged to have Ruigang Li among its non-executive talent."
This story first appeared on campaignlive.co.uk.