Advertising titan WPP seeks to soothe investors over CEO exit
By Agence France-Presse
British advertising bellwether WPP sought Wednesday to reassure investors over the recent controversial exit of chief executive Martin Sorrell.
Chairman Roberto Quarta, addressing the company’s annual general meeting in central London, also moved to allay shareholder concerns over its future.
However, in an embarrassing blow for the London-listed group, almost one third of investors voted against a remuneration report that included a £20-million ($27-million, 23-million-euro) package for Sorrell.
A sizeable minority of 16 percent also rejected the re-election of Quarta.
Sorrell, 73, sensationally quit in April amid allegations of personal misconduct after WPP launched an independent inquiry into the matter.
However, details of the probe have not been disclosed.
“The process that the board followed in response to the allegation against Sir Martin was robust both from a governance and legal perspective,” Quarta added on Wednesday.
“I know that questions remain, but there is simply nothing further we can legally disclose.”
Quizzed over allegations about Sir Martin’s behaviour towards WPP staff, Quarta added: “I want to make it clear that, at WPP — as in any other workplace — everyone is entitled to be treated with respect.
“The board takes this matter very seriously and has asked the new management team to review how our policies are put into practice and where and how we need to make improvements.”
Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal wrote that prior to Sorrell’s departure, WPP’s board investigated whether he had “used company money for a prostitute”, citing people familiar with the matter.
However the WSJ said in its report that “it is unclear what the probe determined”.
Responding to the weekend story, a spokesman for Sorrell noted that the former WPP founder and head had “signed a non-disclosure agreement when he stepped down which precludes him from discussing any of the circumstances surrounding his departure”.
Last month, Sorrell announced plans to launch a communications company.
Sorrell has invested £40 million to help create an investment vehicle, S4 Capital, with the aim of turning it into a multi-national communication services business.