Sir Martin Sorrell Exits After 33 Years As WPP Chief

Sir Martin Sorrell steps down as chief executive of WPP

WPP has said it is business as usual while an independent law firm carries out its investigation into "an allegation of personal misconduct" against the chief executive.

Sorrell's departure, first reported by The Guardian, comes amid reports that he is under investigation for some as-yet-undisclosed improprieties.

Mark Read, chief executive of Wunderman and WPP Digital, and Andrew Scott, WPP corporate development director and chief operating officer, WPP Europe, have been appointed as joint chief operating officers of WPP.

The longest-serving CEO on the FTSE 100 blue chip index, Sorrell built WPP into one of Britain's biggest companies by three decades of relentless dealmaking.

Quarta called Sorrell "the driving force behind the expansion of WPP to create the global leader in marketing services".

The company said Sir Martin will be treated as having retired, with chairman Roberto Quarta becoming executive chairman until a new chief executive has been appointed.

WPP's directors have been in frequent contact by telephone since the allegations emerged and people close to the company played down Tuesday's face-to-face board meeting. "For the past 33 years, I have spent every single day thinking about the future of WPP", wrote Sorrell.

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The 73-year-old denied any misconduct "unreservedly" but in a letter to WPP staff published late on Saturday he said the "current disruption" was "putting too much unnecessary pressure on the business".

A spokesperson for WPP provided a statement, attributed to Sorrell.

WPP on March 1 lowered its long-term profit outlook after reporting its worst annual performance since the financial crisis, capping a string of disappointments that put the ad industry's elder statesman on the defensive.

The company said Sorrell would be available to assist with the transition, and the man synonymous with the British marketing group told the staff they would come through this hard time. However, I believe it is in the best interests of the business if I step down now.

Sorrell, who worked at Saatchi & Saatchi before founding WPP, said the company has been "a passion, focus and source of energy for so long".

WPP's stock has fallen 22% in the past year amid sluggish growth. The biggest budgets have been overhauled, gradually shifting portfolios to include more online advertising.

He has made headlines in recent years regarding his sizeable pay at a time when traditional advertising groups struggle against fierce competition from the likes of Google and Facebook.

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