Sorrell war with WPP escalates as it’s payback time

Sir Martin Sorrell (below) has agreed to pay back $200,000 for expenses he charged WPP, mainly incurred in New York and on ski-ing trips according to the Wall Street Journal.

There’s more to come it seems as WPP goes through his exes with a fine tooth comb.

This is without the vexed question of the WPP founder and former CEO’s outstanding bonuses, dating from a few years back which WPP has said he may no longer be due as his new company S4 Capital is competing with WPP. These may amount to up to £20m. S4 bought Dutch production company MediaMonks under the nose of WPP.

Sorrell remains a shareholder in WPP with a 1.4 per cent stake, worth around £100m at today’s valuation. He earns £100,000 plus bonuses at S4.

Shareholders in both WPP and S4 may wish that these matters could be resolved as they’re clearly a distraction. The famously combative Sorrell may see it as just another part of a day’s work but S4 has some serious growing to do if it’s to become a force on the world stage. Sorrell, at 73, doesn’t have that much time in hand. S4 has yet to appoint a CEO (Sorrell is executive chairman) which may take some of the weight off.

As for WPP it has (or should have) other matters on its mind. But when it’s making about 3,000 staff redundant including some big names as it merge agencies any money it can claw back from Sorrell is useful.

In the meantime SMS appears to be economising. Last week at Davos he apparently purchased a €100 ‘hotel pass’ rather than full access to proceedings. Although that didn’t stop him being interviewed by all and sundry.

WPP reports its full year 2018 results on March 1.

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About Stephen Foster

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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.