The Post-Sorrell Era At WPP

Well WPP had a reasonably good day, despite its relatively lackluster Q1 earnings report, which showed a slight decline in organic net sales globally and a fairly sharp decline in the all-important North America market (-2.4%).

Give the new management team an A+ for managing expectations. While results were kind of sucky, they weren’t as sucky as analysts had been expecting.  And guess where analysts get most of their critical information? That’s right, the companies they cover.

The result: a nearly 7% spurt today for the company’s shares (American Depository Receipts) on the New York Stock Exchange.

And give credit to the new management team in the post Martin Sorrell era—Executive Chairman Roberto Quarta, and co-chief operating officers Mark Read and Andrew Scott.

For 30-plus years, WPP earnings presentations have largely been some iteration of the Martin Sorrell Show. Sorrell dominated every call, usually with assistance on the hard numbers from the very capable Paul Richardson, who continues in the role of financial chief.



But guess what? Other people at the company can string words into cohesive sentences and thoughts as well!

Including the two new co-COOs, both of whom ably acquitted themselves during analyst calls today. And Quarta showed a little feistiness as well. When pressed for details about the Sorrell investigation, he explained, for what he said was the “umpteenth time” and with a little exasperation in his voice, that the company wasn’t required to and would not provide said details.

And when one analyst tried to suggest that the company might have difficulty reconciling two big-picture strategic plans—the one being developed by Read and Scott, and the other potentially developed by whoever the new CEO ends up being—Quarta basically responded by asking what the heck the analyst  was talking about? There’s one strategic plan and it’s approved by the board, he noted.

So yeah, WPP has a lot of issues to deal with right now. But it also seems to have some new managers who, at first blush at least, seem like they’ll add some overdue fresh thinking to the mix.


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