Sir Martin Sorrell reveals pain of WPP split but ad man looks to bounce back
The advertising guru told PA his departure from WPP has been difficult.
Sir Martin Sorrell has opened up about the emotional toll of his acrimonious split with WPP, and revealed the “sky is the limit” as he builds up a rival marketing empire in the face of legal threats.
The advertising guru told the Press Association the past few months since his departure from WPP following allegations of misconduct have taken their toll on himself and his family.
But Sir Martin, 73, said he needed to “get back on the horse”, with his departure offering the chance for a fresh start to rebuild a digital-only marketing empire through his new venture S4 Capital.
I am very ambitious for the company Sir Martin Sorrell
He said: “It’s been a very difficult three months since April 14th and it hasn’t been an easy time for me or my family.
“But the best way is to get back on the horse as quickly as possible. Perhaps build a business that is a little bit more orientated to modern day developments.”
WPP carried out an inquiry into allegations that Sir Martin misused company funds, but details of the investigation were never disclosed.
It has been alleged that the probe looked into whether he used company cash to pay for a sex worker, claims that Sir Martin has “strenuously” denied.
The WPP board has come under fire for its handling of his departure, which included a bumper £20 million payout.
In addition, Sir Martin is not hampered by a non-compete clause.
And the row with WPP shows no signs of dying down, with Sir Martin’s new venture S4 Capital triumphing against the FTSE 100 group in a high-profile battle to buy Dutch firm MediaMonks.
He pressed ahead with the deal despite receiving a legal threat from WPP alleging that he had broken a confidentiality agreement with the firm.
WPP threatened to deny him the £20 million share award payout if he pursued the MediaMonks acquisition.
He claims S4 Capital will not compete head-to-head with WPP, previously describing it as a “peanut” in comparison, but reveals ambitions for his new firm that suggest it will be a force to be reckoned with.
“I am very ambitious for the company,” he said.
He said the “sky’s the limit” in terms of the ultimate scale of S4 Capital, though it “won’t be size for size’s sake”, he stressed.
When he first founded WPP more than 30 years ago with the buyout of Wire and Plastics Products, he completed 18 deals in the first 18 months.
This time he plans to do things differently.
He wants to focus on digital-only marketing, using MediaMonks as a platform to grow organically and by acquisition to tap into the 200 billion US dollar (£151 billion) global market.
There will also be less bureaucracy, with the firm more “nimble and agile”, while it will be a so-called unitary company where management in acquired firms have stakes in the wider group.
He said his departure from WPP has given him the space to reflect.
“If there’s any good that’s come out of the last three months, it’s that it gives me the ability to focus on where the growth is,” he said.
But his spat with WPP is likely to rumble on, while the allegations will be hard to shake off.
In a cryptic comment on the affair, he said the “time will come”, suggesting it is far from forgotten.