Sir Martin Sorrell has stepped down after 33 years as Chief Exec of WPP. Apparently being investigated over claims of personal misconduct. I’m not entirely sure we know what that means and maybe we’ll never completely find out but there’s one thing for sure and that is the world of advertising has lost an awfully big character.
He is, there’s no doubt, one of those people who has a presence when he walks into a room, someone who draws people around him and in the world of advertising that’s half the battle won. No surprise that he took Wire Plastics and Products, a company that manufactured wire baskets, and turned it into the advertising powerhouse it is today. He gobbled up companies like the Ogilvy Group along the way and no doubt made a few enemies too. However, you can’t deny his relentless energy.
He famously once said that he would “carry on until they carried him out of the glue factory” and I will take a bet that he will resurface somewhere after this has all blown over.
So, who will take the helm now that he’s gone? Among the main contenders is Lindsay Pattison, WPP’s CTO, Mark Reid Chief Exec of Wunderman and Johnny Hornby, Chief Exec of The&Partnership. Lindsay would be a good choice especially in the light of the gender pay gap issues, but whoever it will be has some big shoes to fill.
He was a one-off and he maybe overstayed his welcome and fell into the trap of thinking that he was bigger than the company. However, the world needs characters like him, people who shake things up and as a fellow old Askean (he was educated at my old school Haberdasher’s Askes) I have to say that the ad world will never be quite the same again.