More trouble at WPP as anonymous emails spark new investigation in wake of Sorrell departure

Sir Martin Sorrell may have thought he’d drawn a line under the controversial circumstances of his WPP exit at Cannes – denying the unspecified allegations of personal misconduct – but now a number of emails of have surfaced fanning the flames.

The FT was copied in on what it calls a number of encrypted “anonymous and intimidating emails” sent to current and former WPP employees after Sorrell’s exit. Most were sent using WhatsApp, one written by a senior WPP employee to a junior member of staff and some discussing SMS’ travel arrangements and the company’s bonus plan.

The WhatsApp information was reportedly extracted by a technician from a phone handed in by a former WPP employee. The WhatsApp is said to include former executive assistants of Sorrell.

WPP has asked law firms Slaughter & May and New York based Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy to investigate the emails “for the benefit of WPP and the three recipients.”

And that’s all we know for now although this one will doubtless run and run, likely in tandem with other rumours swirling around WPP.

At the same time WPP’s search for a new CEO to replace Sorrell seems to have narrowed down to joint COO Mark Read and Jerry Buhlmann, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network, Dentsu’s operation outside Japan.

Read is the insider’s choice but Buhlmann, a tough operator, has a good record at DAN; defending its core media planning and buying business against the more diverse agency holding companies and moving into data based consulting with the acquisition of US performance marketing agency Merkle, now busily expanding in Europe.

On the face of it non-Japanese Buhlmann is unlikely to get the top job at Dentsu, which he may not want anyway, and WPP chairman Roberto Quarta may view him as the strong man to move WPP decisively in a new direction. At least he won’t have sent any emails to WPP employees.

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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.

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