The world now knows that Martin Sorrell’s abrupt exit from the CEO perch at WPP in April was tied to a holding company investigation about whether he used company funds for a dalliance with a prostitute last year.
And according to the FT, the company probe also looked at what some whistleblowers said was incredibly brutal verbal abuse by Sorrell toward some underlings at the company.
But as Bloomberg reported on Friday, none of that is deterring the former master of the ad universe from attending this week’s Cannes Lions Festival and sharing the stage with Ken Auletta, author of the recently released book about the struggles of Adland called “Frenemies: The Epic Disruption Of The Ad Business (And Everything Else).”
After being caught up in such a scandal, some people might go hide in a corner for a while until the dust settles, but that’s never been Sorrell’s M.O. And besides, he has a lot on his plate — like another ad empire to build! And what greater stage is there than Cannes Lions to talk about that? By the way, Bloomberg reported that Sorrell is looking for a CEO for his company S4 to help him in his latest empire-building effort.
Adding to the anticipation of the Sorrell-Auletta conversation is that Sorrell played a prominent role in the book — being the singular Adland uber chief that Auletta relied on most to get across the industry’s point of view about marketing’s changing landscape and how agencies are adapting to confront new challenges.
The timing of Sorrell’s departure was unfortunate for Auletta, and a reminder of how quickly outdated traditional media can be.
But it will be interesting to see how Auletta steers the conversation regarding recent events. No doubt Sorrell would try to deflect such questions by invoking his NDA with WPP. Auletta, of course, is a seasoned pro and knows how to deflect a deflection.
And if Sorrell is the screamer and yeller and verbal abuser that the FT made him out to be, well, people interested in joining his new would-be empire would certainly be interested to see how he responds to questioning about such behavior.
Has the potential to be a fun chat.