WPP’s handling of VML and Y&R merger insensitive says Sorrell as fall-out begins

The fall-out from the VML/Y&R merger to form VMLY&R has begun and former WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell (below) has added his two penn’orth, telling MediaPost: “For what it’s worth, I would have branded it Y&R/VML, particularly as the VML management (rightly in my view) have the key positions. It would have been more sensitive and magnanimous.”

MediaPost also says the original Sorrell plan was to combine VML with New York-based Geometry, another WPP digital cum shopper marketing agency. That wouldn’t have been the dramatic move new CEO Mark Read was looking for though.

In reality the deal is a takeover of Y&R by VML with VML execs in all the top jobs. Which leaves some rather bruised Y&R execs who were expecting at the very least a marriage of equals, perhaps with them on top. VML founder and CEO Jon Cook seems to have put his foot down.

We’re still waiting to see what will become of the Y&R London management team Paul Lawson, Jon Birley and Katie Lee although there’s a CEO vacancy at WPP’s Grey London where Leo Rayment has moved across to set up a consultancy offering. Lawson, who spent ten successful years running Leo Burnett London, would be an obvious replacement.

Being CEO of a WPP-owned creative network is not the most attractive proposition in town at the minute though with digital agencies and managers in the driving seat.

It will also be interesting to see what former Y&R global president David Patton does. As CEO EMEA of Grey Patton oversaw the rise of Grey in London to hitherto uncharted creative heights, along with Chris Hirst (now at Havas) and CCO Nils Leonard, now running his own agency Uncommon. Patton hired CEO Lawson and backed his changes.

One would have thought WPP could ill afford to lose someone like Patton, a multi award-winning client at Sony before he joined agency land.

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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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