WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell on Wednesday blasted the UK government’s proposal to potentially hold a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union, saying it
would hinder Western Europe’s efforts to emerge from the economic doldrums.
Speaking at a World Economic Forum session in Davos, Switzerland, Sorrell said the referendum -- which UK Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday would occur after the UK’s 2015 political elections -- would “introduce another element of uncertainty…We really don’t need that.” Sorrell added that the proposal would give Europe’s business leaders “another reason to postpone investment decisions [which is] the last thing we need.”
Sorrell also asserted that the referendum could come at “precisely the wrong time,” because by 2015 the Western European economy may be back on track.
While the proposed referendum is a concern, it’s not the biggest worry related to the global economy, Sorrell said. The top concern, he believes, remains the U.S. debt level of some $16 trillion. Refusing to deal with it is no longer an option, Sorrel said.
The good news economically is that many signals point to a rebound in the Chinese economy after a slowdown during 2012. He said that WPP’s fourth-quarter financial results for China were “very strong,” although he did not provide specifics.
Within WPP, Sorrell said a top priority is what he termed "horizontality," which he said meant getting staffers companywide to cooperate in the interests of serving clients effectively.
Sorrell also confirmed that discussions continue between the company and institutional investors over executive compensation. At last year’s annual meeting a majority of shareholders voted against the WPP executive remuneration package, although the vote was non-binding. But Sorrell defended the package at Davos, saying that if the UK wants more “world leaders” in its business ranks, “we have to be competitive.”
Sorrell, who is 68, said he has no current timetable for retiring. “I will carry on as long as they let me,” he said. “I enjoy what I do.”