EDITORIAL: Sorrell stays clean in Cordiant fallout

Few people emerge with much credit from the bizarre and protracted battle of the ambulance chasers trailing the terminally ill Cordiant.

Not the Cordiant managers whose stubborn pride wouldn't allow them to put the company into play until they were engulfed by overwhelming problems.

Not the banks and those out to make a fast buck from the crisis who simply confirmed their inability to understand the workings of a creative business whose prime assets are its people and whose success is built on subtle and easily damaged relationships. And certainly not Active Value, a group of opportunistic financial entrepreneurs who generated a lot of hype while pouring good money after bad and whose threat of legal action looks as if they are now throwing their toys out of the pram.

Undoubtedly, this unseemly squabble will have reinforced the perception that advertising has yet to prove it can manage itself effectively. The industry's case is not being helped by the grotesque amounts being paid to Cordiant's departing chief executive, David Hearn (at least £1.9 million) and Andy Boland, the finance director (£817,000). And what of Michael Bungey, Hearn's predecessor, who bet the business in an all-or-nothing acquisition gamble, paid far too much for what he bought but still pocketed £1.6 million on his way out. These so-called "rewards for failure" do nothing to help advertising's standing and only add to the pressure on business as a whole to pay the rate for the job and end this profligacy.

On a more positive note, last week's overwhelming vote by Cordiant shareholders to accept WPP's £266 million offer was the best possible outcome to this sorry tale. Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP's group chief executive, may not be every agency staffer's ideal boss, but he runs his organisation with an efficiency that should enhance the confidence of Cordiant clients. It's hard to believe many would put their trust in a cobbled together Active Value rescue package and untested new management.

Indeed, it's probably only Sorrell who comes through with his reputation intact and even enhanced. Not only did he never waver despite the persistent attempts to outmanoeuvre him, but he was unambiguous about his objectives.

Where Interpublic's managers seem almost crushed by their responsibilities to shareholders, Sorrell is one of a rare breed who can reconcile creativity with hitting the numbers.