Martin Sorrell steps down as CEO of WPP

Sir Martin Sorrell quits WPP in the 'interests of company'

Sir Martin will be available to assist with the transition. WPP's shares have lost a third of their value of the past year-far more than rivals facing the same market challenges-as its financial guidance has repeatedly proved too optimistic. Meanwhile his share awards will be shared pro-rate over the next five years alongside group performance targets being met.

WPP's directors have been in frequent contact by telephone since the allegations emerged and people close to the company played down Tuesday's face-to-face board meeting.

His exit, with immediate effect, which comes after an investigation into an allegation of personal misconduct, calls time on one of the most distinguished careers in the advertising industry.

Sorrell became one of the highest paid executives in the world during his three decades at WPP, building the firm into an advertising and marketing powerhouse. Meanwhile, CEO of Wunderman and WPP Digital, Mark Read, as well as WPP corporate development director and COO, Europe, Andrew Scott, have been appointed as joint COOs of WPP. The allegations do not involve amounts which are material to WPP as the holding company.

In a statement, Sir Martin said: "Obviously I am sad to leave WPP after 33 years".

Sorrell, who worked at Saatchi & Saatchi before founding WPP, said the company has been "a passion, focus and source of energy for so long".

WPP said Chairman Roberto Quarta will replace Sorrell as chief executive until a long-term replacement is found.

He said that he leaves the company in "very good hands", with Read, Scott and the management team at all levels having the knowledge and abilities to take WPP to "even greater heights, as well as capitalise on the geographic and functional opportunities".

The ad business has changed a lot since Sorrell launched WPP.

We welcomed J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy, Young & Rubicam, Grey, 24/7 Real Media, Taylor Nelson Sofres, among so many others.

Sorrell and his family trust also own a stake of about 1.8% in WPP, worth about £250m.

"If WPP does well, I do well", he told the Press Association in April 2016.

"Mark and Andrew are both highly accomplished and experienced executives who have the board's complete confidence", Quarta said in an emailed note to employees, a copy of which was seen by Bloomberg.

That has left WPP and its peers - the French group Publicis and Interpublic of the USA - being buffeted by headwinds which also include the disintermediation of digital platforms such as Facebook.

Analysts believe Sorrell's departure combined with a share price slump of nearly a third over the past year means investors and the WPP board will have to consider that there is potentially more value in breaking up WPP.

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