Sir Martin Sorrell: The long-serving chief executive who strove for success
The 73-year-old once said he would ‘carry on until they carry me out of the glue factory’.
Sir Martin Sorrell, the outgoing chief executive of advertising giant WPP, once said he would “carry on until they carry me out of the glue factory”.
The 73-year-old was the longest serving chief executive of a FTSE 100 company by a long stretch, having held the position since 1985.
He faced a limited shareholder revolt in 2015 after receiving a £70.4 million remuneration package.
In 2017 the High Pay Centre think tank and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development published a study which showed that Sir Martin was the highest paid FTSE 100 boss for the second successive year, although his total pay fell to £48.1 million.
In one of the many defences of his lucrative pay deals he said his aim was to “start something from scratch and to build it into something of significance”.
Few could question he has done that.
WPP, then Wire and Plastic Products, was a UK manufacturer of wire baskets for the first 14 years of its life until 1985 when Sir Martin took a loan out against shares he owned in Saatchi & Saatchi and purchased a stake in the company after seeking a public entity through which he could build a marketing company.
If it’s our nostra culpa for having a successful company ... I make no apologies for that. The better the results, the better the people do Sir Martin Sorrell
The company was renamed the WPP Group a year later, Sir Martin its chief executive, and then followed a series of acquisitions – research business Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS), the Ogilvy Group, and the Young & Rubicam Group among others – as the company expanded its presence across the world.
Sir Martin was born in London and educated at the Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School before going on to read Economics at Christ’s College, Cambridge.
An MBA from Harvard followed, and Sir Martin entered the world of work at Glendinning Associates before starting at Saatchi & Saatchi in 1975, becoming group finance director in 1977.
There can be little doubt WPP has made Sir Martin a wealthy man – the Sunday Times Rich List in 2017 suggested a figure of £495 million – but he would frequently come in to bat against those who deemed his pay deals excessive.
“If WPP does well, I do well,” he told the Press Association in April 2016.
“Most of my wealth, if not all of it, is and has been for the last 31 years tied up in the success of WPP. So if WPP does well, I do well, and others in the company do well. If we do badly, we suffer.
“Over the past four or five years, the company’s market cap has grown by about £10 billion. So if it’s our nostra culpa for having a successful company … I make no apologies for that. The better the results, the better the people do.”