Former Wunderman boss Mark Read, who was promoted to joint chief operating officer of WPP to step into the void left by the departure of Sir Martin Sorrell, has rifled off an email to all WPP staff attempting to reassure them that the company expects “fairness, tolerance, kindness and respect” from all of its employees.
The email follows a tsunami of fresh allegations about Sorrell – from the “brutal and inhuman” treatment of senior executives to putting a £300 visit to Mayfair brothel on expenses – as the media calls open season on the man who was once hailed as the most respected and powerful boss in advertising.
Read, who was appointed along with Andrew Scott to lead the group until a permanent successor is appointed, wrote that “when I come to work I expect to be treated with respect by my colleagues, and every one of you reading this has the right to expect the same”.
He added: “You will no doubt have read the press coverage this week about WPP and Martin Sorrell, including allegations about his behaviour towards people at the parent company.
“Although we can’t comment on specific allegations, I feel we should remind ourselves of and reinforce the kind of values we want and need to have within every part of our business: values of fairness, tolerance, kindness and – again – respect.”
The email goes on to say that “it should hardly need saying that all WPP working environments must be places where people feel safe and supported. They must also be places where people are able to raise concerns if they want to, and where those concerns are dealt with when they need to be”.
Read then flags up WPP’s “Right to Speak” helpline, which is operated independently and protects the identity of anyone who would rather not speak directly to their line manager or other senior people about their concerns.
He adds: “I encourage you to use it if you ever feel the need to report something on a confidential and anonymous basis. You can find the details for the helpline in each country on InsideWPP.”
In addition, Read reveals that he and Scott will lead a review of how WPP policies and codes of conduct are put into practice at the parent company, and how improvements can be made, adding: “We all want WPP and its agencies to continue to be home to the world’s best talent, which means creating a positive, supportive and inclusive culture in every office. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do.
“In the last eight weeks I have spent a lot of time with our agencies and clients, and there is tremendous positivity and confidence about the future of the business. Let’s stay focused on that, and continuing to build a company we are all proud of.”
For his part, Sorrell continues to deny the allegations and has said he will not issue any further comment “at this time”.
Yesterday, WPP cited “data protection issues” as the reason it has not published the findings of an investigation into Sorrell’s conduct, triggering Liberal Democrat leader and former business secretary Sir Vince Cable to reiterate his call for greater transparency.
He said: “Shareholders should not be kept in the dark. We’re in danger of returning to the City’s worst pre-financial crisis practices. WPP and Sorrell can help prevent a return to that damaging environment that by putting NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) and secrecy to one side.”
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