Martin Sorrell’s spat with WPP

Advertising giant WPP has cancelled a long-term share award to Martin Sorrell, its founder and former CEO, accusing him of leaking confidential client information

Digital-advertising firm S4 Capital has raised its annual profit targets after a strong first quarter, reports Alex Barker in the Financial Times. S4, founded by Martin Sorrell (pictured) after his acrimonious split with advertiser WPP in 2018, saw like-for-like revenue bounce by 35% in the first three months of the year thanks to account wins at BMW and confectionery giant Mondelez. The group is in a sweet spot as digital advertising gathers pace. S4 has grown to a £3.1bn valuation and plans to issue bonds to finance a £500m takeover war chest. 

Sorrell and WPP still have scores to settle. Last week WPP cancelled a long-term share award to its former employee, accusing him of leaking confidential client information to the media while he was still in charge. Sorrell has fired back with a level of derision worthy of a Trump tweet, dubbing the move “outrageous” and saying it was “driven by personal animus”, “envy” and “blind rage”. He has also mocked “WPP’s recent poor share price performance…WPP blew $1 billion by selling their 20 per cent stake in Globant at 52p, it now trades at over 220p…It’s a bit rich that they’re accusing me of leaks, given their own over the last three years.”

Sorrell won’t be feeling too out of pocket, says Dasha Afanasieva on Breakingviews. The shares WPP will withhold are worth at least £200,000. Yet the value of Sorrell’s 10% holding in S4 Capital has soared by 14% this year, leaving him £38m richer. WPP’s decision to go after its former CEO is a “false economy”. Valued at £12bn, WPP is only “inviting comparisons” with Sorrell’s £3bn “upstart”.

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