It didn’t take long for WPP to start off-loading parts of its asset portfolio, built over 30-years by its recently departed CEO Martin Sorrell.
Actually the off-loading began before Sorrell left in April. Late last year, the firm agreed to sell its roughly 25% stake in one of Japan’s biggest ad agencies, ADK, which yielded the holding company proceeds of an estimated $300 million-plus.
In hindsight, it appears there was an internal “debate” on whether or not to agree to the sale. For months last year, WPP strenuously resisted Bain Capital’s offer for the agency, in which WPP had had a stake for decades. Suddenly last November WPP agreed to sell without any further price incentive from Bain, which suggests maybe that the board beat Sorrell into submission, given the company’s current interest in streamlining the firm via asset disposals.
Within weeks of Sorrell’s departure the firm also unwound a decades-old venture with Dentsu—going back to the 1980’s—involving a handful of properties in Asia.
Now in rapid succession the holding company has agreed to sell its interests in ad-tech firm AppNexus and digital strategy and tech consultant Globant, which combined should add another $600 million or so to WPP’s coffers, which presumably will go to reducing the company’s $5-plus billion debt load.
Now there’s word that WPP is looking to off-load its stake in Millennial-focused media platform Vice, in which the holding company has an estimated 7% stake. Vice has been valued by some Wall Street firms at between $5.5 and $6 billion.
And of course there’s been endless speculation that the company is looking at divesting Kantar, which has been a drag on company earnings in recent years, although company executives have said publicly that are good arguments for both retaining and disposing of that asset.
And then of course there’s the company’s stake in The Weinstein Co. made more than a decade ago. The firm was sold earlier this month out of bankruptcy to a Dallas-based private equity firm. It’s hard to tell how WPP made out on that deal, although given the widely reported circumstances surrounding TWC and its evil co-founder Harvey Weinstein (now facing felony rape charges), WPP would probably call it a win if its name were never linked to independent studio again.