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When the time comes, who will succeed Sir Martin Sorrell to helm WPP?

05-April-2018
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When the time comes, who will succeed Sir Martin Sorrell to helm WPP?

Following news that WPP is investigating Sir Martin Sorrell following an “allegation of personal misconduct” has now raised speculation over who will eventually succeed him at the helm of what is perhaps the world’s largest advertising business.

Sorrell, 73, has held his post since 1985. Shares in the company dipped more than 3% in early trading on April 4 following overnight reports about the allegation against Sorrell, say media reports. Incidentally, Sorrell vehemently has denied any wrongdoing.

Sorrell spoke out in his defence in a statement, writing: “Reports in the media have stated that WPP is investigating an allegation of financial impropriety by me, specifically as to the use of company funds. This allegation is being investigated by a law firm. I reject the allegation unreservedly but recognise that the company has to investigate it. I understand that this process will be completed shortly.”

The Wall Street Journal claimed that Sorrell had misused company assets, an allegation WPP would not elaborate on beyond stating it does ‘not involve amounts which are material to WPP’.

In its 2016 annual report, WPP said succession planning was underway and a pool of internal and external candidates had been identified. “The founder CEO has over 30 years’ service with the company and is identified with the success of the group’s strategy and a failure to plan for his succession could impact investor confidence in the company,” it read.

WPP's 2017 preliminary results report, published in March, simply rehashed what had already been said earlier about the succession plan.

Recent developments suggest that there are a few names frequently mentioned when it comes to who might succeed Sorrell. According to The Drum, these include: Mark Read, global chief executive, Wunderman; Lindsay Pattison, chief transformation officer, WPP; Karen Blackett, UK country manager, WPP; and Johnny Hornby, chairman and chief executive, The&Partnership to name a few.

While Sorrell remains firmly in command at WPP, only time will tell if any of the above mentioned names will finally make it to the top job at the advertising giant company. But the question here is if, not when, going by Sorrell's resolution as seen over the years. 33, to be precise.

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