WPP timeline: A five-month rollercoaster from Sorrell's exit to new CEO

WPP has been in limbo for five months without a chief executive after Sir Martin Sorrell abruptly resigned and the group searched for a successor.

Clockwise from top: MediaMonks' Wesley ter Haar and Victor Knaap; Gustavo Martinez; Mark Read; Sir Martin Sorrell
Clockwise from top: MediaMonks' Wesley ter Haar and Victor Knaap; Gustavo Martinez; Mark Read; Sir Martin Sorrell

WPP maintained that the appointment of Mark Read and Andrew Scott as joint chief operating officers, announced on the night that Sorrell quit on 14 April, had always been the plan in the event of an emergency succession as the company searched for a new chief executive.

But no-one could have foreseen the war of words that would play out as Sorrell went on to launch a new business, S4 Capital, just six weeks later and WPP warned he was putting his entitlement to WPP share awards at risk.

S4 Capital went on to beat WPP in the race to buy production company MediaMonks and Sorrell repeatedly criticised his old company.

None of that made it easy for Read and Scott or Roberto Quarta, the chairman, as he talked to prospective candidates for the chief executive role.

14 April
Martin Sorrell quits as chief executive at 10pm on a Saturday evening – 11 days after WPP announced an investigation into allegations of personal misconduct, which he had denied "unreservedly". Roberto Quarta becomes executive chairman and appoints Russell Reynolds as headhunters. Mark Read and Andrew Scott named joint chief operating officers.

16 April
WPP shares fall 6% to £11 on the first day of trading, following news of Sorrell’s departure. Reports emerge that the former chief executive had no non-compete clause in his WPP contract and is free to launch a new business 

19 April
Read and Scott dismiss calls to break up WPP, saying it doesn't make sense, in a memo to all staff. "We need to get closer together, not further apart," Read and Scott say.

27 April
WPP annual report shows Sorrell earned £13.9m in his last year in charge and there is no word of thanks for the chief executive who ran the group for 32 years

30 April
WPP reports 0.1% drop in like-for-like sales, less pass through costs, in first quarter of 2018 – better than the three previous quarters. Shares rise 8% to £12.50

14 May
Influential US shareholder advisory group Glass Lewis calls for investors to vote against Quarta at WPP annual general meeting because of "opaque" investigation into Sorrell

22 May
HSBC moves its $400m media account to PHD from WPP's Mindshare, which had held the account for 13 years

30 May
Sorrell announces launch of S4 Capital with reverse takeover of Derriston Capital and says he has £50m of investment and a promise of another £150m in potential funding to support the business that will focus on technology, data and content

5 June
WPP warns Sorrell’s share awards, potentially worth up to £20m over the next five years, will be at risk if he breaches the terms of his old employment contract and uses S4 Capital to undermine WPP

7 June
Campaign reveals Gustavo Martinez has finally left WPP, two years after the then global chief executive of JWT had faced a storm over allegations of sexist and racist comments

9 June
Wall Street Journal reports WPP investigation into Sorrell in April had looked at whether he "used company money for a prostitute" 

11 June
Financial Times investigation reports more, detailed allegations about Sorrell, including claims he was spotted visiting a brothel and he presided over a "toxic environment" in WPP’s Farm Street headquarters in London. He denied the claims in the WSJ and FT, but said he would adhere to the terms of a non-disclosure agreement when he left WPP. 

12 June
Read orders a review of the company’s code of conduct. "When I come to work I expect to be treated with respect by my colleagues, and every one of you reading this has the right to expect the same," Read says in memo to WPP staff

13 June
Roberto Quarta survives protest at annual general meeting as 70% support his re-election. He tells shareholders the new CEO should have a track record of strong leadership, global management experience and tech savvy, "knowledge of the industry from different perspectives" and "should be great with clients"

22 June
Sorrell speaks at Cannes Lions and criticises the way that WPP ran the investigation into his personal conduct. He said there was a leak "at the very top of the company" and "there has been no investigation whatsoever" 

25 June
WPP sells stake in AppNexus as part of its sale to AT&T 

27 June
WPP appoints lawyers to investigate unexplained leak of emails and private messages, involving current and former staff, which appear to come from an encrypted Swiss-based email service, Proton.

29 June
WPP's MediaCom wins $300m adidas global media account

4 July
Reports emerge that S4 Capital and WPP are both vying to buy MediaMonks. WPP again warns Sorrell that his £20m of share awards could be at risk if he uses information that he obtained from his WPP days. 

10 July
S4 Capital acquires MediaMonks in estimated 300m euros deal.

24 July
WPP non-executive director Hugo Shong quits because of "additional commitments". Sorrell says "as a shareowner" he is "saddened and disturbed" that WPP board will lose Shong’s contacts in China.

8 August
WPP's MediaCom wins £1.4bn Mars media account

13 August
Campaign reveals WPP is to quit Farm Street headquarters in London after more than 30 years. Read and Scott say the company needs a "more modern" and "collaborative" head office space

30 August 
The search for a CEO nears the end as WPP signals it is preparing to appoint Read as chief executive 

 

 

 

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