Now ex-WPP’s Sorrell faces PR battle to restore reputation

It’s not unusual for someone to go for a quick one after work, which is what two WPP employees were doing last year when they say they espied (according to the FT) Sir Martin Sorrell entering what we might call an an apartment of ill repute in London’s Shepherd Market (below).

The Guardian tells us this was an above a William Hill betting office, with a Scottish lady at the front and a “beautiful model” at the back.

Former WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell continues to deny anything untoward went on, in particular concerning company money. We’re unlikely to find out much more unless one or both ladies chooses to enlighten us and, anyway, does it matter?

More damning are the allegations in the FT that there was a Sorrell-inspired culture of bullying at WPP HQ in nearby Farm Street, where it also alleges Sorrell was supplied with wads of petty cash (doubtless reimbursed) despite a generous salary and a company card.

I haven’t visited Farm Street in a long time, long before MAA strode on the scene, but then the atmosphere seemed friendly enough. Sorrell wasn’t there much but when he did seemed affable enough, once greeting me along with a number of other people in the tiny reception area. He probably thought I was a client.

WPP is probably pleased that these allegations have surfaced despite its ridiculous sheltering behind “data protection,” because they will help to bring this matter to a close and may even save them some money if its extremely generous “good resigner” arrangement with Sorrell is renegotiated.

As for Sorrell, now embarked on a new communications venture under the S4 banner, there’s some PR work to do at the very least. It’s not unusual for over-mighty bosses to behave in a beastly manner to what the FT calls “underlings,” who include his long-suffering driver. Are any bosses of massive companies nice people in practice? They are to their peers of course but that’s different.

Sorrell can turn on the charm too and his new PR advisers will be telling him to do just that although he doubtless knows it already.

They may even suggest that, at some stage, he gives what such folk call “his side of the story.” We’re available.

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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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