MediaMonk Sorrell on what might have been – but are WPP’s travails of his making?

MediaMonk Sir Martin Sorrell revealed at a Campaign breakfast today that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway investment giant had offered 925p a share for his WPP back in 2012, just above what the share price is now (it used to be £16).

WPP/Sorrell wanted a bigger premium though and so the deal didn’t happen.

Sorrell also said that new WPP CEO Mark Read’s merger of VML with Y&R was botched, as Y&R should have been in the driving seat – at least for public consumption. Y&R cost WPP over $4bn 20 years ago, by far its biggest acquisition.

Well the world turns and are these titbits from Sorrell any more than that? There doesn’t seem much doubt that WPP in the latter Sorrell years was being run “too hot,” striving after yet more top line growth and forking out millions in dividends and share buybacks. The same was said of Tesco and CEO Phil Clarke when he succeeded Sir Terry Leahy.

So are WPP’s current travails of Sorrell’s making (as Clarke’s might have been attributed to Leahy) or was the old way the best? Current Tesco CEO Dave Lewis wrote off zillions to give the (then) embattled retailer a clean start. Which seems to be working.

Read, one suspects, will have to bite the bullet this way too. A tough job made tougher by the founder and predecessor on the sidelines.

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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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