New crisis for VMLY&R London as CEO Sharpe exits

It must seem like some sort of curse has fallen on the C-Suite at the old Y&R HQ at the Black Cat factory in London’s Camden district.

Barely a couple of months ago the UK leaders of Y&R CEO Paul Lawson, CCO Jon Birley and MD Katie Lee were summoned by a WPP HR person to be told they were fired as the agency was merged with digital network VML and VML Europe’s Jon Sharpe took over as boss.

Now Sharpe himself (left) is out, having, according to WPP, “resigned from VMLY&R during the course of a disciplinary process and while suspended from the company. Following reports received from employees, a formal investigation was launched using external counsel.

“As a business, we have procedures to ensure people can speak up in confidence and to protect the anonymity of those who raise concerns we will not provide further details.” Sharpe has not so far commented.

This leaves the London branch of VMLY&R in a right old pickle as it tries to weld together two very different agencies (Y&R, despite a number of account reverses was rather bigger than VML.) Sharpe himself as a former short-lived CEO of Y&R and, before that, digital head at least knew the companies well.

What will WPP CEO Mark Read and VML CEO Jon Cook do? Persuade Lawson to return? Turn to highly regarded former Y&R global president David Patton who’s currently considering his options or fly in a VML exec from the US?

Adland on both sides of the Atlantic has been losing a string of execs and creatives to tech and social media companies. Now so-called “disciplinary processes” are cutting a swathe through it too.


Jon Sharpe, who I must say I’ve always found an amiable, civilised and intelligent character, texts me to say that he’s resigned to “pursue other interests.” It seems that other key members of his team are out on their ear too.

I’ve never imagined WPP boss Mark Read as a hanger and flogger but that’s the way it seems to be turning out.

Strange days indeed..

One Comment

  1. The Advertising World has gone mad… Surely, we have sane, intelligent people who can rein them all in.

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