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Shockwaves as Sorrell quits as CEO of ad giant WPP

AFP  |  London 

Martin Sorrell's dramatic departure as of WPP, the world's biggest agency he founded 33 years ago, sent shockwaves through the industry today.

Sorrell, 73, stepped down suddenly, 10 days after the British ad giant launched an independent investigation into allegations of personal misconduct through the misuse of company assets.

said the probe had concluded, adding that "the allegation did not involve amounts that are material".

He was easily the longest serving of a company on London's benchmark share index, having held the position since 1985.

The departure of one of Britain's best-known leaves the giant needing fresh leadership at a testing time for the industry, with companies offering brands a direct connection with vast audiences.

Sorrell said in a statement late Saturday that he was sad to leave, with having been his passion and focus for more than three decades.

"The current disruption is simply putting too much unnecessary pressure on the business, our over 200,000 people and their 500,000 or so dependents, and the clients we serve in 112 countries," he said.

"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." television's City said his resignation was one of the most significant exits of a company for many years.

"His departure will leave the company he built virtually from scratch facing profound questions about its future direction," he said.

Despite the misconduct investigation, some commentators said it was the fact that the company had lost a third of its value over the past 12 months -- in the face of competition from the likes of and -- that cost Sorrell his post.

Simon Jack, the BBC's editor, said his legacy as an industry titan was secure.

However, "in the end, it was the trends in world that wrong-footed the sprawling empire he created.

"Shareholders were getting restless," he wrote, and Sorrell "had lost the unanimous backing of the board".

said Sorrell would be treated as having retired, with becoming until a new chief executive is appointed. "Sir Martin has been the driving force behind the expansion of WPP to create the global leader in services," said Quarta.

"During this time, the company has been successful because it has valued and nurtured outstanding talent at every level." Sorrell denied any wrongdoing after the allegations surfaced earlier this month, but said he understood the company had to investigate.

Born in London, Sorrell studied economics at the and then gained a masters from He joined the and advertising agency in 1975 before founding WPP.

He formed it from a shell company, Wire and Plastic Products, re-establishing what had been a wire as a marketing group in 1986.

The firm has grown into one of the world's largest and now has some 3,000 offices.

He received a knighthood from in 2000.

Sorrell made headlines in recent years regarding his sizeable pay at a time when traditional against fierce competition from the likes of and

According to research from the think-tank, Sorrell was Britain's best-paid boss in 2015, with a package of more than ?70 million ($100 million, 80 million euros) that year.

However, he always fiercely defended his income, saying it was related to how well the company he started from nothing was doing.

"Yes he was relentless and richly rewarded -- but let's not forget Sir built a global from nothing," said Lionel Barber, of newspaper.

newspaper's Rich List 2017 said he was worth ?495 million, with his assets up ?100 million over the previous 12 months.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, April 15 2018. 20:50 IST
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