WPP CEO Martin Sorrell Steps Down -- Update

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04/14/2018 | 11:08 pm
Martin Sorrell

By Nick Kostov

Martin Sorrell, chief executive of advertising giant WPP PLC, has stepped down, effective immediately, following the conclusion of a company probe into a personal misconduct allegation.

The company said Mark Read, chief executive of WPP agency Wunderman, and Andrew Scott, WPP corporate development director and chief operating officer, Europe, have been appointed as joint-chief operating officers of WPP. Mr. Sorrell's departure is being treated as a retirement, the company said.

Roberto Quarta, chairman of WPP's board, will take on the role of executive chairman until a new CEO is appointed, the company said.

"Obviously I am sad to leave WPP after 33 years. It has been a passion, focus and source of energy for so long," Mr. Sorrell said. "However, I believe it is in the best interests of the business if I step down now."

The 73-year-old Mr. Sorrell had been at the helm since he founded the company in 1986 and has helped build it into the largest advertising holding company in the world. It boasts a host of blue-chip creative agencies like J. Walter Thompson and Young & Rubicam, as well as powerhouse media-buyer GroupM.

On April 3, WPP said an independent counsel had been appointed to look into "an allegation of personal misconduct" after The Wall Street Journal reported on the probe. The Journal reported that the board was looking into whether Mr. Sorrell misused company assets. WPP said any possible misconduct didn't involve sums that were material to the company. Mr. Sorrell at the time issued his own statement denying any financial impropriety.

"As I look ahead, I see that the current disruption we are experiencing is simply putting too much unnecessary pressure on the business," Mr. Sorrell said in a letter to WPP staff Saturday.

"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," he said.

Write to Nick Kostov at Nick.Kostov@wsj.com

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