WPP is apparently casting a net far and wide in its efforts to find a replacement for long-time company CEO Martin Sorrell, who abruptly resigned a little more than a week ago amid a formal investigation by the company’s board into an allegation of personal misconduct by Sorrell.
London’s The Sunday Times reported over the weekend that two of Adland’s brightest stars—Dentsu Aegis Network’s Jerry Buhlmann and BBDO Andrew Robertson—are being considered as candidates for the top WPP job.
The Times also reported that the firm is looking to Silicon Valley for potential candidates as well, probably given to the growing power that the so-called digital media “duopoly” of Google and Facebook are perceived to have in the advertising world. Where that leaves internal candidates—current co-chief operating officer and Wunderman CEO Mark Read has long been considered a potential successor—is anyone’s guess.
Meanwhile, a growing chorus of voices is demanding that WPP be a lot more transparent about the investigation of Sorrell, who strongly denied he engaged in the misconduct asserted in the undisclosed allegation.
And let’s face it, so far, that investigation has been as secretive as the royal Star Chamber which prosecuted cases out of the public eye back in the day when England’s monarch actually had power and wasn’t afraid to use it.
WPP has said the investigation has concluded but declined to disclose specifics about the allegation or whether Sorrell did or didn’t engage in any inappropriate activity.
WPP has said it won’t reveal details. But late last week the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority contacted WPP (as per this Guardian story) regarding the reporting requirements of such queries. And UK financial website This Is Money reported that big WPP investors and shareholder advisory groups like Mawer Investment Group and Glass Lewis want to know more about the investigation. Even a prominent member of Parliament has called on WPP to reveal the details.
WPP, what part of the word transparency don’t you understand? It’s been in Adland’s buzzword lexicon for years now.
That said, as you’re proving now with your intransigency on the subject no one in Adland—or business generally for that matter—wants to be transparent. Everyone wants to hold their cards as close to the vest as possible for fear of giving something away needlessly.
And who knows, maybe it’s not WPP but Sorrell who doesn’t want the particulars disclosed. That would seem to belie his strong denial. But he certainly wouldn’t be the first corporate bigwig accused of wrongdoing to say “I didn’t do it,” when in fact he did.
With all the interest in this case, I just don’t see the secret holding.