Martin Sorrell must be feeling pretty good about how events have turned in the last week.
I mean, they say that living well is the best revenge. In Sorrell’s case, it's not even close. No, his revenge is far better. Let’s face it -- he has been living well for pretty much his whole life. Deservedly so and mostly on his own merit, given what he did with WPP over 33-plus years.
Then the brakes hit in 2017, a semi-disasterous year for the holding company in terms of organic growth and other metrics that investors care about. Financially, it was the worst year for WPP in a decade.
The next thing you know, Sorrell was out after an investigation -- the details of which remain a mystery, although there have been salacious media reports purporting to have some of the details. Sorrell has denied all wrongdoing.
That was in April. In May, like the proverbial phoenix, the battle-scarred chieftain at age 73 was in talks with a UK firm about his latest grand venture — building a next-generation marcoms holding company.
S4 Capital was announced in June — a “peanut” of a firm, as Sorrel described it. This month, Sorrell is butting heads with the behemoth he built. And he is winning!
I refer, of course, to the battle for the acquisition of MediaMonks, the Holland-based digital content, production and e-commerce firm. Sorrell’s S4, WPP and others entered a bidding war for the company and Sorrell won.
WPP complained that Sorrell violated a no-disclosure agreement and leveraged information he had access to while still at WPP to facilitate S4’s winning bid during the acquisition process.
Sorrell, in turn, dismissed the grievance as untrue, not blinking as WPP threatened that the S4-MM combination could jeopardize more than $20 million in future payouts to Sorrell — part of his separation agreement from WPP.
That’s chump change for Sorrell, although no doubt he will fight for it in court if he thinks he has a case.
But not really needing the money and beating his former employer in a battle for a highly coveted acquisition? That’s the best revenge.