Ex-WPP boss Martin Sorrell is accused of paying £300 for prostitute on expenses

One of Britain’s most powerful men faced a barrage of humiliating allegations yesterday.

Multi-millionaire Sir Martin Sorrell put a £300 visit to a Mayfair brothel on expenses, it was claimed.

He was also accused of bullying staff and ‘blurring’ the line between corporate and personal expenditure for himself and his wife.

It has been claimed that multi-millionaire Sir Martin Sorrell put a £300 visit to a Mayfair brothel on expenses

The bombshell claims, which Sir Martin says are untrue, came after weeks of silence from him over his shock departure in April from WPP, the global advertising empire he founded in 1985.

Sir Martin, 73, transformed WPP from a small wire baskets company into the world’s largest advertising agency – becoming the UK’s highest-paid businessman along the way and one of the most influential men in Britain.

A passionate campaigner for Remain in the EU referendum, he is a regular commentator on business affairs, regularly appearing on the BBC and in national newspapers.

Sir Martin’s abrupt and mysterious resignation from his own firm, following an internal inquiry into alleged ‘personal misconduct’ and the possible misuse of company funds, prompted intense speculation in the City.

His downfall – and the unprecedented secrecy around it – has puzzled and angered blue-chip investors for weeks.

Furious investors demand answers 

Shareholders will tomorrow demand that the board of WPP comes clean over Sir Martin Sorrell’s resignation.

At the AGM in London, investors in the world’s biggest advertising agency will be able to quiz chairman Roberto Quarta about how the firm has been run and call for exact details of why Sir Martin abandoned his empire.

Sir Martin has been classed by WPP as a ‘good leaver’ after his sudden exit on April 14 – an assessment that means he will continue to receive payouts worth about £20million over the next five years. But leading City investment advisory firms suggest that without more information about the misconduct allegations against Sir Martin, it is impossible to decide whether he really was ‘a good leaver’ and deserves to pocket the hefty payouts.

Shareholder groups Glass Lewis and Pirc have both advised that investors vote against the re-election of Mr Quarta as chairman over his refusal to disclose details of the firm’s investigation into Sir Martin.

A Pirc spokesman said last night: ‘There is no disclosure regarding the reason for the sudden departure. Shareholders should be informed of significant events such as this.’ 

Yesterday the Financial Times newspaper claimed Sir Martin, worth £500million, had been spotted going into a Mayfair brothel at 50a Shepherd Market last June.

The prostitutes advertising their services at the £1.3million one-bedroom address are described as ‘young models’ in their twenties.

When the Mail visited the dimly-lit flat yesterday, bondage equipment and racy underwear hung from the bedroom door and red neon lights dangled over the bed.

Sir Martin strenuously denies the prostitute allegations, which first appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday.

Yesterday the FT claimed the investigation against him was triggered by a combination of factors including alleged verbal abuse of his staff, his sacking of a popular chauffeur last autumn and being spotted entering the brothel by a member of his staff who later reported it.

Sorrell was also accused of bullying staff and ‘blurring’ the line between corporate and personal expenditure for himself and his wife Cristiana Falcone Sorrell, pictured here

Sorrell was also accused of bullying staff and ‘blurring’ the line between corporate and personal expenditure for himself and his wife Cristiana Falcone Sorrell, pictured here

The newspaper claimed it had spoken to 25 people who had worked closely with the former WPP boss, and one had accused him of being ‘brutal and inhuman’ to his assistants and another claimed being his assistant was ‘a pretty thankless task’.

Sir Martin strongly denies that he mistreated, abused or bullied his staff.

The FT claimed it was ‘common’ for Sir Martin to request cash for day-to-day expenses, despite being able to put restaurant, drinks, transport, laundry and gifts expenses on a company credit card.

Friends of the businessman pointed out he inevitably had significant expenses running a company with 200,000 staff operating in 112 countries – and denies misusing funds.

The FT’s investigation sets the scene for an explosive annual general meeting of the company which takes place tomorrow. WPP called in investigators following the whistleblower’s claims.

A report subsequently concluded the money was ‘immaterial’ and it was a personal matter for Sir Martin, it was said. He apparently decided to quit WPP, despite denying the accusation against him, because of a breakdown in relations with the board.

He is now setting up a rival company. For two months, WPP has steadfastly refused to explain why Sir Martin stepped down, to the frustration of some large investors who have called for greater transparency.

Yesterday friends of the mogul were blaming the astonishing situation on an ex-employee ‘with a grudge slinging mud at him’ and said he was ‘pretty cheesed off about it’.

One said: ‘It has turned out to be a very murky, unpleasant business. He has no complaint about there being an investigation if there needed to be one, but he felt it was badly conducted. He doesn’t want to sit down at the same table with those people on the board again.’

Another friend told The Times: ‘He denies the allegation that he saw a prostitute. He understands that the allegation was made by a disgruntled employee. If you run a business with 200,000 employees for 30 years, some will fall out with you.’

The mogul’s spokesman said last night there was nothing to add to a previous statement which said: ‘Sir Martin signed a non-disclosure agreement when he stepped down which precludes him from discussing any of the circumstances surrounding his departure.

‘He has rigidly adhered to this obligation and will continue to do so. As regards the allegations which have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Sir Martin strenuously denies them. He will be making no further comment at this time.’ 

A loyal chauffeur brutally sacked, a chance sighting by two off-duty staff… and the downfall of the £500M ad man Martin Sorrell 

It was a chance sighting a year ago by two off-duty employees of Sir Martin Sorrell’s multi-billion-pound advertising empire WPP that was to culminate in his explosive exit from the company he founded 33 years ago.

Tuesday June 6, 2017, was a grey afternoon and a light drizzle was falling on Mayfair. But storm clouds were gathering on the horizon for Sir Martin personally.

The father-of-four’s alleged visit to a Mayfair brothel came the day before a tumultuous annual general meeting of WPP at which a fifth of the advertising firm’s investors voted down their chief’s astonishing £48million pay package.

Sir Martin quit multi-billion-pound advertising empire WPP in April this year, after alleged misuse of company funds and ‘personal misconduct’ – which he strenuously denies

Sir Martin quit multi-billion-pound advertising empire WPP in April this year, after alleged misuse of company funds and ‘personal misconduct’ – which he strenuously denies

Ever since Sir Martin quit the firm in April this year, after alleged misuse of company funds and ‘personal misconduct’ – which he strenuously denies – speculation has been rife in the City about what he was accused of doing.

Yesterday it was claimed WPP had been investigating whether Sir Martin had spent £300 of company money on a prostitute.

The Financial Times reported that on June 6 last year, two employees of WPP, based in Farm Street, Mayfair, met for a drink in nearby Shepherd Market.

The area is one of London’s oldest red-light districts and was where Lord (Jeffrey) Archer infamously met prostitute Monica Coghlan.

Workaholic who took home £70m in ONE year 

Three decades at the top of the world’s largest advertising agency saw Sir Martin Sorrell amass a vast fortune.

But his years as one of Britain’s highest paid executives also gave the 73-year-old little time – or inclination – to spend his estimated £495million wealth.

A self-confessed workaholic, Sir Martin famously declared: ‘I don’t relax. I can’t even spell the word “hobby”.’ The son of an electronics retailer, he studied at Cambridge and Harvard before going to work for Saatchi & Saatchi in the 1970s.

In 1985, aged 40, he took control of Wire & Plastic Products, which made wire shopping baskets, and turned it into a marketing company. As chief executive he created an advertising empire with 200,000 employees in 112 countries and a turnover of £15.3billion. Its success was reflected in his pay and bonuses, which totalled £70.4million in 2015 – then believed to be the highest pay package in British corporate history.

Since 2010, he has pocketed more than £230million in pay and bonuses, and a long-term incentive scheme means he will receive another £20million from WPP over the next five years – despite his resignation and the misconduct inquiry.

The two colleagues were sitting outside a bar when they allegedly witnessed their boss going into Flat 50a. Afterwards, one of them took a photograph of the location, the FT reported.

It is unclear whether the two WPP employees mentioned anything about their alleged sighting to the company at the time.

But later it became central to the firm’s investigation into its chief executive’s alleged misconduct. In the early months of 2018, one of the employees broke their silence and confided to a senior colleague about what they had allegedly seen that evening in June 2017, said the FT.

Exhausted chauffeur fired for wanting to rest

One catalyst for the investigation was apparently the firing of Sir Martin’s long-serving chauffeur. The popular driver had worked for the millionaire chief executive for some 15 years until he was abruptly sacked last October.

The unnamed chauffeur used to ferry Sir Martin around London in a Range Rover and was also often on call for his wife Cristiana too.

One night last October, he had allegedly been working for 12 hours without a break when he was asked to pick up Lady Sorrell from the exclusive restaurant Mayfair Isabel and run her back to the couple’s £5million Belgravia home.

According to sources who spoke to the FT, it was already 2am and the driver was told he would have to be back in place for another job at 7am.

It was said that he refused to pick up Lady Sorrell, saying he would be too tired and unsafe on the road if he only got two or three hours’ sleep.

The Sorrells fired him the next day, the FT claimed.

The driver was a popular figure at WPP’s Farm Street offices, said to be well liked by the personal assistants who helped Sir Martin maintain his exhausting round-the-clock schedule.

His dismissal was ‘met with shock and sadness across the executive suite’, the newspaper said – as well as a resolve to act. The alleged shabby treatment of the chauffeur was apparently a key factor motivating a future whistleblower.

A fiery temper and four-letter outbursts

Another factor was said to be Sir Martin’s alleged fiery temper. The ad boss built his multi-billion-pound empire virtually from scratch and is said to work day and night, quick-firing off emails and micro-managing his sprawling business, which has 200,000 employees across the globe.

But he is known to expect his employees to match his pace and the role of Sir Martin’s executive assistants (EAs) has allegedly proved particularly ‘punishing’.

The chief executive’s six EAs earn around £80,000 apiece but one described her salary as ‘battle pay’, in light of the verbal abuse she has to put up with.

‘He was brutal and inhuman in how he dealt with his assistants,’ one former executive told the FT. ‘He would say “you’re f***ing idiots, what’s f***ing wrong with you”… He had a real dark side.’

A former WPP board member said being an executive assistant was ‘a pretty thankless task’, a role that another employee likened to ‘being in an abusive relationship’, with Sir Martin presenting a charming image to the outside world that was at odds with the one that was witnessed by staff. The chief executive apparently called one elderly colleague a ‘pudding’ and described others as ‘bozos’.

Executive assistants working closely with Sir Martin did not typically last longer than 18 months because the job was too tough, according to the newspaper. One ex-employee told the FT: ‘After a year, my doctor told me that if I continued I would be dead.’

Sir Martin is said to accept that he can be difficult at times but strongly denies mistreating, abusing or bullying staff and his supporters said many people have worked for years at WPP, and that Sir Martin has received dozens of messages of support.

Bewildering expenses claims 

Another factor explaining the unease in the WPP boardroom was the alleged ‘blending’ of Sir Martin’s expenditure on his corporate and private life – not to mention that of his wife.

The City veteran is described as a perpetual motion machine, working all hours – including during holiday – and constantly responding to emails.

His business took him all over the world as he mixed with the global elite. He was among the guests at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in Windsor last month.

Lady Sorrell was often expected to be at Sir Martin’s side at events with clients and their spouses, but some claimed it was occasionally difficult to discern when he and his wife were travelling for business or pleasure.

The blurred lines between the spending for corporate and personal purposes was said to have led to ‘fierce arguments’ at head office about which items required personal reimbursement by Sir Martin.

In 2015, Sir Martin drew attention for chalking up £274,000 in travel expenses for his wife, who is a senior City executive in her own right, with high-flying roles at the World Economic Forum, telecoms giant Viacom and the cosmetics firm Revlon.

After 2015, WPP stopped providing travel expenses for Lady Sorrell, 43 – Sir Martin’s second wife – who gave birth to the couple’s daughter in November 2016.

Despite a generous benefits and pay package that made him the country’s best-paid chief executive in 2015 – earning £70million that year – the FT said it had been ‘common for Sir Martin to request cash for day-to-day expenses’.

The newspaper claimed this had ‘long puzzled head office staff’, who were aware his restaurant, drinks, transport, laundry and gifts expenses were typically put on the company account or credit card.

It was ‘all the more puzzling’, said the FT, because Sir Martin was not always required to provide receipts for the cash he received. In covering the globe for his company, Sir Martin was bound to rack up significant expenses as part of his duties. Auditors always signed off WPP’s accounts and insiders insisted that ‘great care and attention’ was always taken by the company and the chief executive over his expenses and that he ‘denies there was any misuse of funds’.

How whistleblower sparked investigation  

All of the above served as the backdrop to the investigation by WPP into its own chief executive’s alleged use of a prostitute.

Sir Martin had long dominated the company he founded, but 2017 witnessed the downfall of a succession of powerful men in the media and Hollywood.

In January this year, it was revealed that WPP had sponsored the Presidents Club charity dinner at which high-powered businessmen were accused of sexually harassing ‘hostesses’ hired to be groped at the event.

Amid widespread criticism of men’s behaviour at this event, one WPP employee decided to turn whistleblower to reveal what they had witnessed last June in Shepherd Market – their boss allegedly visiting a brothel. The allegation was passed up the chain to WPP’s chairman Roberto Quarta, who set up a subcommittee that eventually called in a Washington law firm, WilmerHale, to investigate.

The whistleblower provided the photo of 50a Shepherd Market. Sir Martin was interviewed for two hours by WilmerHale partners on March 29. Believing it was a routine matter, he did not have a lawyer present, according to the FT.

On April 13, WilmerHale’s findings – considered so sensitive that a written report was not provided – were revealed verbally to the board.

Friends of Sir Martin said he was not given the full picture. The investigation concluded that there was no proof of misuse of company funds, that the amounts of money in question were ‘wholly immaterial’ and that no other WPP employee was affected.

The board apparently concluded the matter was largely a personal issue for Sir Martin.

Yet the fact that the investigation had been carried out was leaked to The Wall Street Journal and Sir Martin is said to have concluded that his position as CEO was untenable, resigning the following day.

WPP has said it would be breaching the Data Protection Act to reveal the details of Sir Martin’s departure, and his spokesman has said he signed a non-disclosure agreement ‘which he has adhered to and will continue to adhere to’. The spokesman added that Sir Martin ‘strenuously denies’ the allegations.

Inside the £160 an hour brothel above a bookies at centre of Martin Sorrell scandal

Behind the plain white front door is a lurid pink sign announcing ‘beautiful model’ and wooden stairs leading up to a one-bedroom flat.

Visitors are ushered into a generous room with a king-size bed adorned with neon red fairy lights. A leather jacket, bondage gear and racy underwear hang on a rack behind the bedroom door.

This was the scene at 50a Shepherd Market, a nondescript flat above a bookies. But being in the heart of Mayfair, this flat, which once belonged to a peer, is worth £1.3million. Now it is rented by the day, by a variety of young women who sell their bodies for sex – often to men who turn up unannounced.

The brothel on Shepherd Market in Mayfair, Central London where Sir Martin Sorrell is accused of using WPP cash to pay for prostitute

The brothel on Shepherd Market in Mayfair, Central London where Sir Martin Sorrell is accused of using WPP cash to pay for prostitute

‘The young lady will be with you shortly,’ a middle-aged dark-haired woman, the flat’s maid, said in a strong northern accent when the Daily Mail visited yesterday. Seconds later, the young lady, clad in black lingerie and wearing black high heels, could be seen sitting cross-legged in a tiny waiting area.

She looked in her mid 20s, was about 5ft 5in tall and of slim build. She had straight black hair, longer than shoulder length, and wore dark mascara. She spoke with an eastern European accent. Seemingly shy but cautiously friendly, she did not wish to give her name and said she operated on a ‘no questions asked’ basis.

Inside the bedroom there is cream acrylic carpet, burgundy wallpaper and dimmed lighting. Thick dark curtains are pulled tight across windows that look out on Shepherd Market, a favourite playground of expensive bars and restaurants for the capital’s wealthier residents.

Sir Martin Sorrell is accused of using WPP cash to pay for prostitute in Mayfair

Seedy: The sign on the Mayfair doorway that leads to the flat used by prostitutes, with a 'beautiful model' sign 

Seedy: The ‘beautiful model’ sign on the Mayfair doorway that leads to the flat used by prostitutes, where Sorrell is accused of visiting

Speaking softly, the woman nervously ran through the price list. For £60, clients get a 20-minute session. It costs £160 for an hour of ‘whatever you want’.

The flat, above a ground-floor branch of bookmakers William Hill, has an en-suite bathroom and a rudimentary kitchen. The walls are bare, apart from an A4-size silhouette image of a woman.

‘I rent this apartment for my business for one day a week, every Monday,’ she said. ‘We don’t really know the other girls who work here. I don’t see anybody else. We just leave some money in the microwave to pay the rent. Some people come back lots of times, some people only visit once. We don’t ask them personal questions because they don’t want to answer them. They just come in, do their business, and then they leave.’

According to a website which reviews brothels, women named Bianca, Elly, Priya and Suzzanna are said to work at 50a Shepherd Market.

Suzzanna, who works on Tuesdays – the day that Sir Martin Sorrell is alleged to have visited the flat on June 6 last year – is described as ‘brown-haired and curvy’.

According to the Land Registry, the flat seems to have once belonged to the 6th Earl Howe, the Right Honourable Edward Richard Assheton Penn Curzon, styled Viscount Curzon. He died in 1984 aged 75, and the flat was left in his will. It is unclear who now rents it out but the will’s executor, Michael Williamson, is named as the proprietor in the Land Registry records. He was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Shepherd Market’s seedy reputation dates back to the 1980s when former Tory Party deputy chairman Jeffrey – now Lord – Archer, paid a prostitute for sex, the late Monica Coghlan, after meeting her in Mayfair.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk