WPP announces Mark Read as CEO following Sir Martin Sorrell’s departure

Advertising and PR giant WPP has announced the successor to Sir Martin Sorrell, with co-chief operating officer Mark Read set to take the CEO reins with immediate effect.

WPP’s chairman, Roberto Quarta, said the decision followed a rigorous selection process and assessment of 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,” said Quarta.

Sorrell resigned from the position at WPP in April this year following an investigation into allegations of personal misconduct. Although details remain shrouded, Sorrell told an audience at Cannes that the end of this thirty-year tenure was “like being hit by a bus”.

While making no direct allusion to the former chief’s resignation, Quarta said Read was “in every way the 21st century CEO”, with an intimate understanding of the business, strong internal support and respect and endorsement of clients.

“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,” Quarta said.

“Most recently, Mark led the transformation of Wunderman into one of the world’s top digital agencies, and he understands the importance of culture in creating successful organisations.”

Read will take the helm of the business at a critical time, as it weathers increasing pressure in the face of competition from ad tech giants Facebook, Google and Amazon, as well as pressure from investors and clients to make services more transparent and efficient.

“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,” commented Read on his appointment.  

“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.”

The Evening Standard noted that Read’s appointment marks the end of the WPP “megabucks era”; Read will take a salary of just less than £1m per year and an annual bonus of up to 250%. While far from scant, that amounts to a tenth of Sorrell’s peak pay packet of £70m in 2015.

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