Former WPP CEO Sorrell Defends `Difficult' Management Style

(Bloomberg) -- Former WPP Plc Chief Executive Officer Martin Sorrell said his style of management was sometimes “difficult,” but that he had done no wrong, in his first public comments addressing the allegations against him since leaving the company in April.

Sorrell, who in three decades turned a wire shopping basket maker into the world’s largest advertising company, resigned from WPP following a company probe into allegations of personal misconduct and misuse of company funds.

The Financial Times reported last week that Sorrell used to mistreat and verbally abuse his staff, citing people who worked closely with him. The company said it would review how its codes of conduct are put into practice. Sorrell has denied any bullying or other wrongdoing.

Speaking in an Irish pub in Cannes during the industry’s biggest annual gathering, Sorrell said WPP should investigate the leak of the internal investigation and that there had been a “press frenzy” that was “ridiculous.”

“My management style has been in existence for many years,” Sorrell said. “Am I the easiest person to get along with? Sometimes I can be difficult. I would always say difficult with justification. If it was a fault to demand superior performance, mea culpa. But beyond that, no.”

WPP has installed Mark Read and Andrew Scott as interim co-chief operating officers, and the pair are reviewing the company’s strategy and portfolio of businesses before a permanent successor is appointed. Sorrell said WPP should choose Read and Scott as co-CEOs because they have complementary skills and neither was able to do the job alone.

“One on their own would not be sufficient,” Sorrell, who still owns 1.4 percent of WPP according to data compiled by Bloomberg, said at an event hosted by The Drum. “The two together can be a very powerful and potent combination.”

Sorrell also criticized WPP’s sale this week of its stake in Luxembourg-based Globant SA, an agency that helps companies with their digital strategy. Sorrell said Globant competes with consulting firms like Accenture and Deloitte, who are seen as a threat to ad agencies.

“It’s a significant mistake,” Sorrell said. “WPP needs more of the Globants, not less.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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