Former WPP boss Sorrell sets out his new stall as S4C looks to tap shareholders

“When the facts change I change my mind. What do you do sir?” is a quote attributed to famous economist John Maynard Keynes.

Former WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell (below) is not quite as famous but he seems to have changed his mind too.


Launching the prospectus for his new venture S4 Capital Sorrell says he will take on management consultancies and others (and agencies presumably, they haven’t gone away yet) by creating a “new era, new media solution, embracing data, content and technology, in an always-on environment for multi-national, regional and local clients and for millennial-driven digital brands.”

S4C’s digital marketing services will be “agile, efficient, and of premium creative quality, in other words faster, better and cheaper” and it will have one P&L, rather than multiple profit centres. Pretty much what his WPP was accused of not being or doing. S4C only includes one company at the moment – Netherlands-based MediaMmonks, a digital production company bought for €300m – so one P&L isn’t so radical. But you take the point.

Sorrell’s S4C is reversing into a quoted shell company called Derriston Capital and hopes to begin trading shares on September 28. Sorrell will have 18 per cent of the company, including a controlling vote. He’ll be paid £100,000 with a maximum £100,000 annual bonus (a far cry from his vast earnings at WPP) and has indemnified the company for six years against any legal action from WPP.

WPP has claimed that his bid for MediaMonks deployed information gained at WPP, which was also interested in the company. He’s signed a 12 month non-compete arrangement, again in stark contrast to his contract at WPP.

As Keynes noted, you have to learn from such events.

Can S4C hack it in a very expensive world for marcoms acquisitions?

Sorrell clearly needs more than MediaMonks although that business seems to be growing rapidly. Media analytics companies are on everyone’s radar including his but ones of any scale are thin on the ground. If he really wants to be a big player (and he surely does) then S4C needs a complementary network of some description although that doesn’t have to be from one of the big holding companies. A tech consultancy or even smart tech-based PR network could do the trick.

Update

Here’s S4C’s client-to-consumer road map.

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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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