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WPP boss Sorrell spills the beans on Desert Island Discs


By Noel Young, Correspondent

December 7, 2011 | 4 min read

Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and chief executive of WPP, the world's biggest advertising agency, has revealed a lot of himself - and his his favourite music on the BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs. 
He was 40 when he left Saatchi and Saatchi to be his own boss, he told interviewer Kirsty Young.

WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell

Now described as "the world's most influential ad man," he said, "When I started off, what I wanted to do was to build a company and manage it - I wanted to be an entrepreneur and be a manager."

Sir Martin revealed he was born just one year after an older brother, Michael, died at birth.

"Being an only child and the last chance, I was probably overindulged. My mother and father sacrificed a lot for me because of their own lack of opportunities."

His mother, he said, was an "impossible Jewish mother. She would ceaselessly remind people about me in that way that Jewish mothers and grandmothers continually attempt to outdo other mothers and grandmothers."

He was very close to his father, whom he spoke with three or four times a day until his death in 1989 at the age of 75. He tried to foster the same close relationship with his own three sons, but admitted, "It's much more difficult because I've gone through a divorce. ."

On a trip to the U.S. when he was 19, Sir Martin was in a serious car crash. He suffered facial injuries -- including a severed artery. Later he returned to the U.S. to study at Harvard Business School, but his mother thought Harvard "changed him for the worse."

"Maybe it made me a little bit too business-focused," he admitted. "It's a hothouse. You're like a greyhound in a trap. They open the trap and you think you can change the world and you can't change the world."

He said he had "imbalanced" his life at various stages "and probably emphasised career more than family. It's extremely difficult. You lose sight often of that balance. In the first 18 months of WPP, we did 18 acquisitions."

Now 66, Sir Martin , was asked how he justified his £4 million pay package. He said pay did not have anything to do with corporate responsibility. "Pay differentials are a different area," he said. "We started with one room and two people. We are now a significant economic force. If you do well you get rewarded for it."

He admitted that he wouldn't survive long as a castaway. "I'm absolutely hopeless," he said, "I can't even change a lightbulb."

His No 1 music choice was Chet Baker with My Funny Valentine.

At No 2 was Astrud Gilberto Corcovado by the composer: Jobim

In the No 3 slot was Gracie Fields with Sally.

No 4 was music from Schindler’s List with

Itzhak Perlman and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Williams.

No 5 was The Beatles with Fool on the Hill.

At No 6 was Giacomo Puccini with Ai tuoi piedi.

No 7 was Sting with an Englishman in New York.

No 8 was Handel's Sarabande with the National Philharmonic Orchestra.

Sir Martin's favourite book was The Talmud - and his luxury item was

a cricket bat, ball and stumps.


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