Former WPP CEO and current S4 Capital chief was involved in what the Financial Times described as an “explosive confrontation” with a former WPP colleague at the Web Summit in Lisbon about two weeks ago.
The FT reported that one eyewitness (not identified by name in the story published Friday) saw Sorrell slap the former colleague, Jim Prior, CEO of WPP’s Brand Union, and then follow up with a loud tongue lashing in the speaker’s room at the conference.
WPP issued a statement: “We take our responsibilities to our people very seriously and have raised this with Sir Martin.”
According to the FT report, Sorrell was angry with comments attributed to Prior about him in the trade press back in 2018.
Sorrell denied slapping Prior. When the FT asked Sorrell by text whether there was any physical contact between him and Prior at the conference, Sorrell went all Bill Clinton on the publication, replying: “what do you mean by ‘physical contact’?”
Maybe the FT should have asked Prior if he purposefully slammed his face into Sorrell’s open hand. But Prior declined comment beyond confirming he saw Sorrell at the event.
This little contretemps speaks volumes about Sorrell.
He sure hasn’t been shy about sharply criticizing WPP and its leaders repeatedly since he was forced out in April 2018. But someone makes a comment about him and he harbors an angry grudge for a year, sees the alleged offender and loses his shit.
I’d call that a complete lack of control, not to mention character.
And certainly not the example that a CEO of any company should be setting.