Ad king Sir Martin Sorrell steps down from WPP following misconduct investigation

There’s big news in the world of advertising. Sir Martin Sorrell has stepped down from WPP, the world’s largest ad business.

Sorrell had been in the midst of an unspecified investigation about “personal misconduct and misuse of company assets.” He has denied the allegations.

WPP provided us with the following statement.

“Sir Martin Sorrell has stepped down as Chief Executive Officer of WPP with immediate effect. Robert Quarta, Chairman of WPP, becomes Executive Chairman until the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer…Sir Martin will be available to assist with the transition. The previously announced investigation into an allegation of misconduct against Sir Martin Sorrell has concluded. The allegation did not involve amounts that are material…Sir Martin will be treated as having retired…

The $20.8 billion British company owns big brands in the marketing and communications world, including Olgivy & Mather, Young & Rubicam and 400 others. The company has over 200,000 employees.

73-year-old Sorrell was largely responsible for growing WPP into the advertising empire, having founded the business in 1985. He remained at the helm for decades. Some of its biggest clients include Unilever and Procter & Gamble.

A spokesperson for WPP provided a statement, attributed to Sorrell. “Obviously I am sad to leave WPP after 33 years. It has been a passion, focus and source of energy for so long. However, I believe it is in the best interests of the business if I step down now.”

The ad business has changed a lot since Sorrell launched WPP. The biggest budgets have been overhauled, gradually shifting portfolios to include more online advertising.

WPP’s stock has fallen 22% in the past year amid sluggish growth. Competitors like Omnicom and Publicis have struggled similarly.

As of last year, Sorrell was said to have a net worth of 495 million pounds, or over $700 million. His compensation exceeded $100 million in some years.

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