Exactly a year ago bumped into Johnny Hornby and Mark Read (newly-anointed joint COO of WPP with Andrew Scott) at a lunch where Hornby inquired of Read what it felt like to be the heir apparent to Sir Martin Sorrell. Read smiled, beadily.
Here’s Hornby, founder and CEO of The&Partnership which is 49.9 per cent owned by WPP, advising Read and Scott what to do in one of his regular appearances on Sky News. And it looks rather like The&Partnership, putting creative and media together around a core based on data.
So is Hornby placing his hat in the ring too? WPP’s now executive chairman Roberto Quarta has made it clear that the next CEO has not been chosen yet although Read and Scott are clearly in the frame, maybe as co-CEOs.
That aside, Hornby’s analysis is surely correct and Sorrell should have moved faster along these lines. Why didn’t he? His media agency behemoth GroupM has replaced WPP’s creative agencies as the main source of profits (or had done until clients started clamping down). GroupM is now the commercial heart of WPP. Splitting it up would be a nightmare.
So a poser for Read and Scott – and, maybe, Hornby.
PS Hornby thinks WPP’s Kantar research business should be sold off, which we’ve been saying for years. Was Sorrell’s refusal to do this the reason for his sudden fall? Some analysts have said it’s worth £3.5bn although this sounds toppy. It would make a nice dent in WPP’s debt regardless.