After months of speculation that the job was his to lose, WPP, the ad industry’s largest holding company, on Monday confirmed that WPP veteran Mark Read has been appointed CEO -- succeeding Martin Sorrell, who left in April.
WPP chairman Roberto Quarta stated: "The Board carried out a rigorous selection process, assessing internal and external candidates. That process, alongside Mark’s wise and effective stewardship of the business in the last few months, left us with no doubt that he is the right leader for this company, and we are delighted to announce the Board’s unanimous decision to appoint him as Chief Executive Officer of WPP."
Added Quarto: "Recognised for his leadership throughout the industry, he has an intimate understanding of the business, he enjoys very strong internal support, and he has earned the respect and endorsement of our clients with his constant focus on their needs. He has played a central role in many of WPP’s most successful investments and initiatives, and he has deep experience at board and operational level."
Read has been co-chief operating officer of the company since Sorrell’s departure. He has run Wunderman as CEO since 2015 and for more than a decade before that was head of WPP Digital.
Stated Read: "WPP is a great company with exceptional people and strong relationships with clients who place a high value on our work. Few organisations have our global reach -- 130,000 people delivering results for clients in 112 different countries. Fewer still have our powerful combination of creativity and expertise in technology and data." "Our industry is going through a period of structural change, not structural decline, and if we embrace that change we can look ahead to an exciting and successful future."
Added Read: "Our mission now is to release the full potential that exists within the company for the benefit of our clients, to accelerate our transformation and simplify our offering, and to position WPP for stronger growth. To achieve that we need to foster a culture that attracts the best and brightest: inclusive, respectful, collaborative, diverse. What makes our company special is its people, and I am very proud to have been given the chance to build a new WPP with them."
Quarta has resumed his role as non-executive chairman with the appointment of Read as CEO. Andrew Scott will continue in his role as chief operating officer of WPP on a permanent basis as a key member of the senior management team.
The company said Read would receive an annual salary of £975,000 (about $1.3 million). He will also be eligible for an annual bonus to 250% of salary, with mandatory deferral of at least 40% of bonus into shares deferred for a two-year period. And there is also a long-term incentive plan award available to him of up 350% of salary based on attaining certain performance benchmarks among other benefits.
Notably, WPP said Read’s employment contract contains restrictive covenants including an industry non-compete — which was not in place for Sorrell and which allowed him to quickly resurface and create new holding company S4 Capital. Investors had been harshly critical of the board for allowing Sorrell to work without a non-compete agreement.
Read’s pact also has restrictions concerning jumping to company clients and poaching certain WPP employees if he should opt to leave the company at some point.
Sorrell left WPP under the cloud of an investigation in the spring looking into allegations of personal misconduct. Technically, the longtime WPP chief “retired” from the firm, which has said repeatedly that it will not disclose any details surrounding the investigation or what it turned up.