WPP axes Tenthavenue in latest agency cull

Long-serving chief executive Rupert Day is leaving.

Tenthavenue: housed several agencies as a mini-holding company
Tenthavenue: housed several agencies as a mini-holding company

WPP has shut Tenthavenue, a mini-holding company that housed a collection of agencies, as its cull of agency brands continues.

Rupert Day, chief executive of Tenthavenue and a long-serving lieutenant at WPP dating back to the early 1990s, is leaving.

Tenthavenue housed Kinetic, Joule, Candyspace, Spafax, Forward, Shopper2Buyer and TMarc as subsidiaries.

WPP said the agencies are "unaffected" by the retirement of the Tenthavenue brand, which in effect served as an intermediate holding company.

About 1,500 people worked under the Tenthavenue umbrella in 2016, the last year that WPP disclosed those staff numbers in its annual report. 

Kinetic, the out-of-home media buying agency, is the best-known business within Tenthavenue and it is understood that it will now formally sit within Group M, the home of WPP’s media agencies.

A WPP spokesman said: "As part of our wider plan to simplify WPP and make it easier for clients to access our capabilities, the Tenthavenue holding structure and brand have been retired. The agencies themselves are unaffected by this change."

WPP grew from a shell into a £24bn company at its peak during Sir Martin Sorrell’s 32-year reign as chief executive as he acquired hundreds of agencies. WPP owned more than 450 companies as recently as 2017.

Sorrell began merging agency brands during his final year in charge as the group became unwieldy and clients demanded simpler ways of working.

MEC and Maxus merged to form Wavemaker, Wunderman absorbed Salmon and Possible, and five design and branding agencies became Superunion.

Mark Read, Sorrell’s successor, has accelerated the process by creating Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R through mergers and is selling a stake in Kantar.

WPP's share price has halved from £19 to £9.50 in two years and there has been persistent speculation about a break-up of the group on the basis that the subsidiaries could be more valuable than the sum of the parts. 

Ian Whittaker, an analyst at investment bank Liberum Capital, wrote in a research note this week: "We see an increasing possibility that WPP may be broken up, either self-initiated or from outside intervention."

Whittaker lifted his target share price for WPP to £14.50 and suggested Vivendi, the owner of Havas, could be a possible – if unlikely – buyer.

WPP has previously said it sees no merit in a break-up.

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