Will WPP Hire A Woman As Its Next CEO?

WPP issued its 2017 annual report today with a letter from company chairman Roberto Quarta which revealed, that he has met regularly with shareholders on succession and other issues.

“We have continued to respond to their request for greater transparency of reporting and integration of the Board evaluation process with succession planning,” Quarta wrote.

Hmmm. I wonder how he defines transparency? That’s unclear, which is what transparency isn’t.

He sure didn’t go into the details surrounding the personal conduct allegations against former CEO Martin Sorrell or what the board’s investigation found out. Otherwise, we’d all know by now. I don’t know, it all sounds a bit opaque to me.

Quarta did acknowledge in the report that WPP is considering candidates inside and outside of the company. He didn’t name names—and at this point in the process, that’s understandable.

Reports have it that Dentsu Aegis Network’s Jerry Buhlmann and BBDO’s Andrew Robertson are being considered. And Mark Read, one of two executives running the day-to-day business now that Sorrell is gone, has publicly thrown his hat in the ring.



Succession planning has been on Quarta’s to-do list since he arrived at WPP in 2015 as chairman. Back then, investors were clamoring for a plan. Now that Sorrell is out, I think the issue has been elevated a couple of notches on his list. It’s a priority, Quarta noted in his annual report musings, albeit one with no set deadline.

Wouldn’t it be great if WPP hired a woman as its next CEO?

I’m pretty sure that’d be a first for a holding company. And it would certainly help balance the gender gap on the company’s current board, which only has 25% female representation.

What about Tamara Ingram, the current global chief of J. Walter Thompson? She’s got an excellent track record and decades of experience at WPP. Added plus, she’s a Brit and has been bestowed with Most Excellent Order Of The British Empire honors.

Or what about Wendy Clark, global CEO at DDB? Probably a long shot if residency weighs heavily in the decision. Great management skills though and clients seem to like her. I mean big clients like McDonald’s. She knows how clients think — she’s spent a good chunk of her career running media and marketing operations at Coca-Cola and AT&T before that. I read somewhere that she’s from the UK, although she moved across the pond a long time ago.

Obviously, there are a number of extremely talented women that could fill the bill as WPP’s CEO. In addition to the two referenced above, look at Silicon Valley, a sector that WPP has reportedly targeted for potential candidates.

Quarta writes about the company’s commitment to narrowing — and at some point eliminating — the gender gap at senior management levels of the holding company. 

Well Roberto, I’ll bet you’d get there a lot quicker if you hired a woman to run the place.


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