Departed WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell was paid £13.9m by WPP in 2017, including a £10m share handout. This compares to the £48.1m he received in 2016 and stonking £70.4m he trousered in 2015. He still stands to collect up to £20m in further bonus shares over the next few years.
Sorrell has been awarded well over £200m (mostly in shares) by WPP over the past five years, making him the company’s biggest individual shareholder with a stake of around 1.5 per cent. WPP shares have taken a hammering over the past 16 months, down about 40 per cent.
Some other shareholders might wonder why he got any kind of bonus in 2017, given that the company flatlined at best. And they won’t be best pleased either with the prospect of him getting another £20m. WPP’s embattled board will say that it’s all contractual and they can’t do anything about it but it hardly looks a sensible use of company funds. WPP is now being run by joint COOs Mark Read and Andrew Scott while it looks for a new CEO. Read says he “assumes” he’ll be considered.
WPP reports its first quarter results on April 30. Omnicom and Publicis Groupe have reported organic first quarter growth of around 1.6 per cent. Anything much worse from WPP will be akin to kicking a hornets’ nest. Shareholder eyes will also be on its debt levels, currently standing at just under £5bn.