Succession issue at WPP is hotting up as CEO Sorrell faces new board and row over pay

You don’t expect to find vital intelligence about WPP in the Express newspapers (or much news of any kind, to be honest) but it’s telling us with some confidence that the WPP board has decided that it will take two people to take over from CEO Sir Martin Sorrell (below) when he eventually decides to quit and spend more time with his money. Express owner Richard Desmond is a chum of Sorrell’s so that could conceivably have something to do with it.


But the succession issue at WPP is undoubtedly hotting up and the heat is likely to increase when new chairman Roberto Quarta takes over from Phil Lader in June. Before then Sorrell has to face a shareholders meeting at which there will undoubtedly be some dissent at his recent £36m pay award, maybe even a vote against. Shareholders will also be aware that he stands to trouser £88m or so if he stays on another couple of years. That’s a lot of money, even for the likes of WPP.

A senior exec at one of WPP’s agencies told me a while ago that he felt that WPP would need to appoint a duo to succeed Sorrell; there are just so many companies doing different things now in WPP that no one exec could possibly get their head around it all. Sorrell would probably say that’s why the company needs him.

There are other possibilities, of course. The company could hive off its burgeoning data business, some of which has precious little to do with advertising. This might actually help to sell Kantar wares (or Xaxis wares, or both) as big companies might be more inclined to buy such data if it wasn’t being sold to them by a media buyer.

Sorrell may decide he doesn’t need the hassle of sbareholders revolting about his pay every year and decide to do something else. He’s 70 now but hardly short of energy.

WPP has been in existence 30 years now. Might it be the end of an era?

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