Sir Martin Sorrell and the board of WPP have ended their search for a non-executive chairman with the surprise appointment of Philip Lader, the outgoing US ambassador to the UK.
The appointment of 54-year-old Lader, who has held several key government posts under his close friend President Bill Clinton, will be seen as a coup for the WPP group, and follows the announcement of year-end figures showing strong profitability.
Sorrell had experienced some difficulty finding a suitable replacement for Hamish Maxwell, the 73-year-old outgoing chairman who had agreed to delay his retirement during the search for his successor.
Plans to appoint Sir Christopher Lewinton, the chairman of the engineering group TI, were abandoned after a negative reaction from shareholders when the idea was floated last October.
Sir Christopher had drawn criticism for raising his own salary while overseeing a slumping share price at TI. He was also felt to lack heavyweight status in the US.
Lader's experience in business and politics on both sides of the Atlantic seems tailor-made for the WPP role.
He has held the UK ambassadorship since 1997 and previously served Clinton as both administrator of the US Small Business Administration and as White House deputy chief of staff. His appointment is expected to deflect criticism that the WPP board had become too subservient to Sir Martin.