WPP Discontinues Operations In Russia

WPP said Friday morning it was discontinuing its operations in Russia where a staff of 1,400 is employed. 

Russia accounts for a small percentage of WPP's net sales--less than 1%. But by pulling out of the country the company is sending a strong message about how reprehensible it believes Russia's unprovoked invasion of another sovereign state is. 

The company issued a statement: 

"WPP stands with Ukraine and the international community in condemning the Russian invasion, which has created a humanitarian crisis in the heart of Europe. The Board of WPP has concluded that WPP’s ongoing presence in Russia would be inconsistent with our values as a company, and we are therefore discontinuing our operations in the country.” 

As to the staffers employed there the holding company said they have “been dedicated and valued members of our organization, and we thank them for their commitment to the company and our clients. We deeply regret the impact of this decision on our Russian colleagues. We will provide support to them and work closely with our clients and partners as we discontinue our activities in the country.” 



In a memo to employees CEO Mark Read said the pullout would take place over the coming weeks and months.

“We will work with our people, clients and partners to consider all options including transfer of ownership and divestment, and we will provide additional and enhanced financial support to anyone who loses their employment as a result of this decision. Local agency leaders are discussing next steps with their teams directly.”

WPP has 200 employees in the Ukraine, whom the holding company noted “have shown extraordinary resilience and bravery in the face of the horrific attack on their country, and we have been inspired by their example and the outpouring of support from their colleagues in the region and worldwide. We are in constant contact with our leaders in Ukraine to provide financial and other forms of practical assistance for our employees.” 

WPP has partnered with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to run an emergency fundraising appeal to help people forced to flee their homes in Ukraine and is  also matching all donations by WPP employees. Thousands of employees have already donated. 

Word of WPP's decision follows by a day the decision of Accenture--including its big digital marketing arm Accenture Interactive-- to pull out of the country, also citing the invasion as the reason. The company has a total of 2,300 employees there. 

"We will be providing support to our Russian colleagues," the company said in a statement. "While Accenture does not have a business in Ukraine, we will continue our efforts to help our Ukrainian colleagues working around the globe at Accenture and their extended families; we are providing telehealth for those in Ukraine, and helping resettle family members who leave Ukraine."

The consultant said it was donating $5 million to nonprofit relief organizations working to help people in Ukraine and those being displaced into Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic." The company is also matching donations from employees. 

Other holding companies continue to evaluate options. Interpublic, for example said, “we are assessing the most appropriate course of action that is both responsive to the gravity of the situation and also seeks to take into account the welfare of our colleagues.” It has about 200 employees in Russia. 

“As indicated at the outset of this unprovoked war,” IPG added, “our primary focus continues to be remaining in regular contact with our affiliate partners in Ukraine in order to determine the most effective ways for us to provide support to them, and the needs of all Ukrainians, during this crisis.”

This story is developing and will be updated as warranted. 

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