WPP feud with former boss Sir Martin Sorrell heats up with fresh row over £600,000 worth of bonus payments
WPP’s feud with former boss Sir Martin Sorrell has escalated after the advertising giant tried to deny the tycoon £600,000 worth of bonus payments.
The firm said the 76-year-old, who led it for 33 years until 2018, had disqualified himself from the payouts by leaking sensitive client information to journalists while he was still at WPP.
It did not provide further details about the leaks, or why the issue had only emerged now.
Sir Martin Sorrell (left) described WPP’s decision to to deny him £600,000 worth of bonus payments as ‘petty’. WPP is now run by Sorrell’s former protege Mark Read (right)
But Sorrell hit back at the ‘petty’ decision and said he had called in lawyers to contest it.
The row is just the businessman’s latest exchange of hostilities with WPP, which is now run by his former protege Mark Read.
Sorrell – who remains one of WPP’s top shareholders with a 2 per cent stake – previously called on Read to resign ‘before he is pushed’ and said the chief executive ‘won’t last’.
Relations between them have been rocky since 2018, when Sorrell left WPP over issues including his expenses and conduct – allegations he denied.
He then launched a new rival agency, S4 Capital, and has sparred with his former firm over clients and takeover targets.
Responding to WPP’s move yesterday, Sorrell said it was ‘just another case of peanut envy’.
He said: ‘It’s a bit rich that they’re accusing me of leaks, given their own over the last three years. They’ve had to go back several years to try and find an excuse to deny me what’s mine.’
He claimed WPP and Read were being driven by ‘blind rage’. The row was revealed yesterday when WPP published its annual report, which said Sorrell would no longer receive shares awarded under the firm’s executive performance share plan in 2016 and 2017.
Annual reports show he had been awarded 1.2m shares under the scheme but because of his departure he could only receive a fraction of them at most.
Around £200,000 is thought to have been at stake from the 2016 award and another £400,000 for 2017.
However, WPP said its compensation committee had decided Sorrell’s stock should be left to lapse, invoking a clawback clause.