Commentary

It Looks Like Sorrell's S4 Capital And WPP Are Competitive After All

This story just tickles me pink.

If you’re like most in the industry you’ve been following the Martin Sorrell story in recent months.

In a nut shell (in case you haven’t) he “retired” from the holding company in April after it launched an investigation into personal misconduct allegations on his part. A prostitute may have been involved, along with abusive behavior toward underlings. Sorrell has denied all wrongdoing. WPP has refused to provide details, although the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times have.

Sorrell rebounded quickly however, investing in and becoming chairman of a British firm now known as S4 Capital. The firm is accumulating hundreds of millions in financing from backers to create a new marcoms holding company of some sort.

One of the interesting parts of the story is that Sorrell has been quoted ad nauseum saying his new venture wouldn’t be competitive with WPP. No, no. His holding company will be much different. A new kind of holding company, unlike the legacy firm that he once headed.

The hilarious part of the story (so far): both Sorrell’s new firm and WPP are competing bidders for a Belgium-based digital production firm called MediaMonks.

WPP however, doesn’t find the situation quite as amusing as I do. In fact the holding company had its lawyers send a not-so-friendly little note to Sorrell’s representatives to let the former WPP chief know that he might be putting future payouts of $20 million-plus (per the terms of his separation agreement) in jeopardy if he pursues the MediaMonks deal.

WPP confirms it sent the letter. The UK’s Guardian quoted from it asserting that the holding company told Sorrell he’d “likely to be in breach of his confidentiality obligations” if he prevailed in his effort to acquire MediaMonks.

Sorrell didn’t leave the firm with any non-compete restrictions, according to numerous reports. But apparently there was a non-disclosure agreement. At least that’s what is inferred by the WPP lawyer letter.  

That said, as the UK’s Guardian notes Sorrell is denying  any breach on his part in pursuing the MediaMonks deal.

There you have it. Stay tuned. This is going to be a fun chess match to watch.

Just as an aside, has anyone noticed how tan Sir Martin is looking in recent photos? I wonder if KFC has reached out to him about being a potential “Colonel” in its ads. I mean, he’s not as old as George Hamilton, but he looks just as golden brown.  You know, just in case this S4 thing doesn’t work out.

Or maybe in addition to!

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