WPP has confirmed that it has launched an investigation into its CEO Sir Martin Sorrell following an “allegation of personal misconduct”, while a Wall Street Journal article alleges misuse of company assets.
Neither a WPP spokesperson, or the Wall Street Journal article, give any details outside these allegations as to what the investigation entails but WPP says it does “not involve amounts which are material to WPP”.
A statement from the advertising network, said: “The Board of WPP has appointed independent counsel to conduct an investigation in response to an allegation of personal misconduct against Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief Executive Officer of WPP. The investigation is ongoing. The allegations do not involve amounts which are material to WPP.”
The allegations come at a time when advertising networks are finding market conditions challenging, with WPP and Sir Martin Sorrell leading the narrative. After the most recent financial results, Sorrell admitted 2017 was “not pretty” for the business. He argued that long term factors around digital disruption were impacting the business, while shorter term factors like zero based budgeting were adding to challenges.
The company has since been on a journey of ‘simplification’, or consolidation, trimming down the group to fewer brands. Last year the company combined its media agencies Maxus and MEC into Wavemaker, merged five of its design consultancies into Superunion and folded digital shop Possible into stablemate Wunderman. It has also merged its PR firms Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe to create Burson Cohn & Wolfe. Speculation is mounting that its creative shops will also follow suit.
In a recent discussion with The Drum, Sorrell talked of how its relationships with Google and Facebook had strengthened, at least helping to stave off one of the issues that big advertising businesses had been facing; the threat of the duopoly.
Updated: Sorrell has since issued his own statement to refute the accusations.