WPP internal memo downplays post-Sorrell break-up speculation

WPP's many assets

WPP chief operating officers Mark Read and Andrew Scott have circulated a memo to staff in the network reassuring them in the foundations laid by departed chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell and denying that there is a hunger to break up what is the world’s largest advertising company.

As the company pursues a consolidation of its assets, to streamline its offering, making it more accessible and transparent to clients, Read and Scott addressed the rumour that the network would be best served broken down into smaller parts.

They said: “There’s been speculation about breaking up the Group. We don’t believe this makes sense. In a world where clients need faster, more agile, integrated solutions, we need to get closer together, not further apart.”

The pair said they will have more to share on this “soon” but added: “WPP is a great business with outstanding people, world-class agencies and most of the world’s leading companies as its clients and partners.”

The statement acknowledged rumours that segments of the company could be broken up. With 200,000 staff in over 3,000 offices spanning 112 countries, the argument gains weight that the company could benefit from a break-up if its scale is working against, rather than for it.

The company boasts a presence across advertising, media, data, PR, branding, digital, ecommerce and more, and the speculation claimed that the PR or research units could break off.

The pair rebutted: “The companies and client teams that make up WPP are exceptionally good at what they do. They are major organisations in their own right, with their own strong leaders. The clients I’ve spoken to have all been clear: they value their partner agencies and teams, they expect them to continue to deliver, and they have no doubt that they will.”

Speaking in the aftermath of 33-year leader Sorrell's departure, which leaves a vacancy at the top, the pair issued a “universal admiration for Martin’s achievements, and sadness about his departure” but added that there is “no shortage of confidence about the future”.

In the absence of a chief executive, Read said he will handle people, clients and companies and Scott has taken the lead on the WPP’s operational and financial performance.

They concluded: “WPP’s greatest strength is the depth and diversity of our talent (meaning you). We’re working closely with the leaders of our companies, and listening carefully to their views, as we develop our plans.”

Read the full memo below.

Over the last four days I’ve spent as much time as possible speaking to our people and clients. There’s universal admiration for Martin’s achievements, and sadness about his departure. At the same time, there’s a huge amount of support and goodwill for the company, and no shortage of confidence about the future.

That confidence is well founded. The companies and client teams that make up WPP are exceptionally good at what they do. They are major organisations in their own right, with their own strong leaders. The clients I’ve spoken to have all been clear: they value their partner agencies and teams, they expect them to continue to deliver, and they have no doubt that they will.

Andrew and I have been given a very clear brief by the Board.

First, to run the business on a day-to-day basis. I’m looking after people, clients and companies and Andrew is focused on operational and financial performance and managing the WPP portfolio.

And second, to move forward decisively on the Group’s strategy. We have tremendous strengths within WPP, and we plan to build on those while bringing our own perspective and ideas.

WPP’s greatest strength is the depth and diversity of our talent (meaning you). We’re working closely with the leaders of our companies, and listening carefully to their views, as we develop our plans.

Some things we know already: we’ll get even closer to our clients to better understand and meet their needs and to help them grow in a world of disruption; we’ll get closer to technology partners like Adobe, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others; we’ll make sure our structure and offer make it as simple as possible for clients to access our services across the Group; and we’ll put data, technology and creativity at the heart of what we do.

There’s been speculation about breaking up the Group. We don’t believe this makes sense. In a world where clients need faster, more agile, integrated solutions, we need to get closer together, not further apart.

We’ll share more as soon as we can but, in the meantime, if you have questions let us know and we’ll do our best to answer them.

WPP is a great business with outstanding people, world-class agencies and most of the world’s leading companies as its clients and partners.

Nothing that’s happened in the last week has changed that.

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