WPP's CEO Sir Martin Sorrell (pictured) has stepped down with immediate effect, following the conclusion of an investigation into an allegation of personal misconduct against Sorrell.
Chairman of WPP Roberto Quarta will assume the role of executive chairman until a new CEO is appointed. Meanwhile, CEO of Wunderman and WPP Digital, Mark Read, as well as WPP corporate development director and COO, Europe, Andrew Scott, have been appointed as joint COOs of WPP. Sorrell will be available to assist with the transition.
Earlier this month, the board of WPP appointed an independent counsel to investigate Sorrell for personal misconduct. It said in a statement that "the allegations do not involve amounts which are material to WPP". Sorrell rejected the allegations and said his commitment to the company which he founded 30 years ago, remains absolute.
In accordance with his at-will employment agreement, Sir Martin will be treated as having retired on leaving WPP, as detailed in the Directors’ Compensation Policy, the press statement read.
“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," Sorrell said.
He said that he leaves the company in "very good hands", with Read, Scott and the management team at all levels having the knowledge and abilities to take WPP to "even greater heights, as well as capitalise on the geographic and functional opportunities.
"I will particularly miss the daily interactions with everyone across the world and want to thank them and their families for all they have done, and will do, for WPP," Sorrell added.
"Sorrell has been the driving force behind the expansion of WPP to create the global leader in marketing services. During this time, the company has been successful because it has valued and nurtured outstanding talent at every level – within and well beyond our leadership teams. On behalf of the board I would like to recognise these achievements and thank Sorrell for his commitment to the business over more than three decades," Quarta said.
Last month, Sorrell said that 2017 “was not a pretty year” following the release of its financial results, as like-for-like top line growth was flat against original expectations of 2% growth.
This was despite the fact that WPP posted a revenue growth of 1.7% to US$19.703 billion for 2017. About 30% of the group’s revenue last year coming from Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, and Central and Eastern Europe, up marginally from 29.9% in 2016.