So come on – is Sir Martin Sorrell worth £30m a year?

cannes-sorrell-hed-2014That’s the issue WPP shareholders were asked to vote on at today’s AGM; about 30 per cent demurred (less than last year) and Sorrell (left) remains the best-paid CEO in the FTSE100 of Britain’s biggest companies, many of which are a lot bigger than WPP.

Under old arrangements, which are still in force, SMS may well trouser £100m over the next three years.

So is SMS worth it? Hard to tell. A different and less competitive man might have said, £30m (or £100m, make your choice) is a bit much and I’ve got enough money anyway – so I’ll take a rain check. But that’s not Sorrell’ style.

He thinks he’s the owner of the business because he started it so he’s entitled to receive owner-type rewards.

And it has been a wonderful year for Sorrell. The big threat to WPP’s long-term strategy of being the biggest marcoms company in the world – and therefore inescapable for big clients – was severely threatened last year by the proposed tie-up between numbers two and three Ommnicom and Publicis Groupe. But that foundered as their respective leaders John Wren and Maurice Levy forgot about who would be CFO, not a mistake Sorrell would have made.

The upshot is that WPP remains on top, Sorrell’s strategy of growing by bits seems validated.

But Sorrell is about to enter his eighth decade and there needs to be a succession plan, Sorrell has been careful not to annoint a successor, and who can blame him? Doing so is usually a disaster – look at Publicis Groupe.

Andrew Robertson from BBDO? David Jones, from nowhere at the moment? Johnny Hornby from the minority-owned The&Partnership? There are lots media managers around but WPP’s giant GroupM hasn’t been winning much recently. Nobody has emerged as a supremo.

Or an outsider? Anyway Sorrell for the moment is sitting pretty and he deserves some plaudits for that.


I see that WPP digital boss Mark Read is also stepping in as chairman of Wunderman, these days a digital as well as direct marketing network. Wunderman recently lost a big chunk of Microsoft business to IPG.

Read is one of only three executive directors on the WPP board along with SMS and finance boss Paul Richardson. Does this new move mark him out as heir apparent (don’t want to ruin your career Mark, sorry) or is it just a bit of firefighting?

All will be revealed – probably in a decade or so.

PS Sorrell also received £167,000 for ‘spousal travel.’ Well it’s less than Prince Charles’ chartered plan to Nelson Mandela’s funeral cost.

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