Is WPP set to star in George Osborne’s UK budget?

Back in 2008 WPP decided to register the company in tax haven Jersey and base it in Ireland in a protest at what it saw as double taxing of profits (in its case the overwhelming majority) earned outside the UK.

The move is estimated to have saved Sir Martin Sorrell’s company about £50m a year ever since.

In the run-up to last year’s UK general election Sir Martin that he would be keen to relocate to the UK if such tax anomalies (as he saw them) were removed.

Now it looks as though coalition chancellor George Osborne is planning to do just that (although probably not immediately) in Wednesday’s Budget and that WPP is the big plump rabbit he’s going to pull out of his hat to show that business likes the policy and that his government (unlike its Labour predecessor) is business friendly.

There’s many a slip of course between what’s in the inspired leaks from the Treasury in the immediate run-up to the Budget and what actually transpires on the day. Ideas are floated to see what the political reaction is.

Chancellors are actually supposed to keep schtum about their plans on pain of resignation or even prosecution prior to the Budget (way back in 1947 Labour chancellor Hugh Dallton had to resign for leaking Budget ‘secrets”).

All of which rather puts Sir Martin on the spot.

Has he done a deal? Has he agreed to be a poster boy for Osborne? Will he be sitting in the gallery in Parliament waiting for an Osborne announcement that never comes?

Osborne (who doesn’t have much, if any, money to give away on Wednesday) could use a few business-friendly headlines.

Will WPP find itself figuring prominently in them?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.