We should all be used to it by now, but it seems that hell still hath no fury like Martin Sorrell scorned. The S4 Capital executive chairman didn’t hold back when talking about his departure from WPP at an online session as part of Advertising Week.
Despite the success of S4 Capital, Sorrell can’t let go of WPP, admitting that his “emotional and psychological connection” to the business “can never be destroyed,” and reminding the audience that the only time he ever sold a share in WPP was when he had to fund his divorce.
He directed his bitterness at chairman Roberto Quarta, saying: “I think the board of WPP made a mistake. They misunderstood the dynamics – particularly the chairman, he has a lesson to learn.”
Sorrell pointed out that “the bozos at WPP” sold Latin American digital specialist Globant in June 2018 and since then, its shares have tripled in value, meaning WPP could have made another billion dollars if it had held on to its stake.
Talking to FT global media editor Alex Barker, Sorrell said that the board of WPP have “no shares in the company whatsoever,” and “no financial interest in the success of the company.” He added: “You have to have skin in the game to drive a company forward in the long term. It’s a fundamental issue.”
Unable to resist a pop at current WPP CEO Mark Read, who has been in trouble recently for comments construed as ageist, Sorrell said: “If you start talking about age you get yourself in trouble,” but went on to say that across S4 Capital, the average age of people working in media was 25, and in content it’s 32.
Asked why he set up S4 Capital after his WPP exit, Sorrell admitted he had “a point to prove.” With the benefit of hindsight, he said, at WPP “I would have done what we did, but better, faster and cheaper,” although he did acknowledge that it’s a challenge for analogue businesses to adapt.
Sorrell also said the he had his doubts about whether the Olympics in Japan will go ahead next year. He sensed the administration had “lost their appetite” for the games, particularly since the resignation in August of prime minister Shinzo Abe for health reasons.