The lengthy letter opened by declaring, “For the past 33 years, I have spent every single day thinking about the future of WPP.” Okay, but he probably spent too little time each day considering the present—and the people—of WPP.
Sorrell then stated, “We welcomed J Walter Thompson, Ogilvy, Young & Rubicam, Grey…” Um, JWT was the first hostile takeover in the industry, so it’s a little bizarre to say the agency was welcomed to the fold. In roughly 30 years, JWT went from hostile takeover to hostile workplace.
Next, Sorrell proceeded to recite the breakthrough accomplishments experienced over the years. The self-congratulatory list did not include any kudos for being “the most diverse example of diversity of any single organisation.” Also absent were salutes for gender equality and talent recruitment in the holding company.
Sorrell promised, “In the coming period, I will be available to the Board and any of you, should you want help with anything, anywhere.” Oh, please. Then again, it would be interesting to learn what Gustavo Martinez might request.
In closing, Sorrell proclaimed that WPP will always be more important than life or death, which likely inspired over 200,000 eye rolls. Sorrell ended by saying, “Good fortune and Godspeed to all of you… now Back to the Future.” Somebody tell Doc Brown to leave Marty wherever he lands.
Sorrell’s full resignation message to WPP: ‘Godspeed to all of you’
Sir Martin Sorrell sent this statement to the staff at WPP, following his resignation as chief executive.
“To everyone at WPP
For the past 33 years, I have spent every single day thinking about the future of WPP. Over those decades, our family has grown and prospered.
We welcomed J Walter Thompson, Ogilvy, Young & Rubicam, Grey, 24/7 Real Media, Taylor Nelson Sofres, among so many others.
We created Group M, including Xaxis and Essence.
We put the focus on Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East and Central Eastern Europe, the home of the next billion consumers. We embarked on the early development of digital capabilities; and the evolution of a firm-wide integrated client and country-centered approach.
Our holding company was recognised as the world’s best and most effective through the Cannes Lions and Effie Awards year after year after year.
We pioneered Atticus Awards for original written thinking…. the WPP Fellowship Awards to recognise promising talent…. the Partnership and Practice Awards for client endorsed integrated market and case studies.
Our Stream digital conferences have attracted the best in the digital business for more than a decade.
Our Annual Sustainability and Pro Bono Reports highlight the unique social, environmental and public policy work that we do day in, day out across the globe.
As I look ahead, I see that the current disruption we are experiencing is simply putting too much unnecessary pressure on the business, our over 200,000 people and their 500,000 or so dependents, and the clients we serve in 112 countries.
That is why I have decided that in your interest, in the interest of our clients, in the interest of all shareowners, both big and small, and in the interest of all our other stakeholders, it is best for me to step aside.
We have had a succession plan in place for some time. A new generation of management, led by Mark Read and Andrew Scott (who have each been at WPP for approximately 20 years), are well qualified and experienced in the Board’s opinion, to deal with the geographic and technological opportunities and challenges our industry faces.
We have weathered difficult storms in the past. And our highly talented people have always won through, always.
Nobody, either direct competitors or newly-minted ones can beat the WPP team, as long as you work closely together, whether by client and/or country or digitally.
In the coming period, I will be available to the Board and any of you, should you want help with anything, anywhere. I shall miss all of you greatly. You have given me such excitement and energy and I wanted to thank you for everything you have done and will do for WPP and me.
As some of you know, my family has expanded recently, WPP will always be my baby too.
As a Founder, I can say that WPP is not just a matter of life or death, it was, is and will be more important than that. Good fortune and Godspeed to all of you… now Back to the Future.