Wunderman and WPP Digital chief executive Mark Read has become joint chief operating officer at WPP – alongside the head of the marketing group’s European operations Andrew Scott – following the shock resignation of Martin Sorrell at the weekend.
Sorrell stepped down on Sunday ahead of the findings of an investigation into alleged personal misconduct. The 73-year-old, who bought Wire & Plastic Products as a shell company in 1985 before turning it into a major global marketing organisation, said that WPP and its future is “more important than a matter of life or death”.
In a statement to WPP staff, he said: “As I look ahead, I see that the current disruption we are experiencing is simply putting too much unnecessary pressure on the business. That is why I have decided that in your interest, in the interest of our clients, in the interest of all share owners, both big and small, and in the interest of all our other stakeholders, it is best for me to step aside.
“As a founder, I can say that WPP is not just a matter of life or death, it was, is and will be more important than that. Good fortune and Godspeed to all of you … now Back to the Future.
“We have had a succession plan in place for some time. A new generation of management, led by Mark and Andrew (who have each been at WPP for approximately 20 years), are well qualified and experienced in the board’s opinion, to deal with the geographic and technological opportunities and challenges our industry faces.
“We have weathered difficult storms in the past. And our highly talented people have always won through, always.
“Nobody, either direct competitors or newly-minted ones can beat the WPP team, as long as you work closely together, whether by client and/or country or digitally.”
Read first joined WPP in 1989 as a corporate development manager, staying five years. He then had a spell at Booz & Co before founding online loyalty business WebRewards in 1999, which was subsequently sold to Bertelsmann. Read returned to WPP in 2002 as director of strategy and has been with the company ever since.
He was appointed to the main board in 2006 after taking on the role of CEO of WPP Digital but stepped down in 2015; he took on the additional job of CEO at Wunderman in 2015, succeeding Daniel Morrel.
Scott has been at WPP since the late Nineties, joining from management consultancy LEK, and, although one of Sorrell’s closest allies, has been out of the media spotlight for most of that time. He became chief operating officer for Europe in 2013.
WPP chairman Roberto Quarta becomes executive chairman.
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