Sorrell Swerves on Succession Speculation

11 September 2007

DALIAN, China: Those who see WPP Group founder Sir Martin Sorrell merely as a hard-headed businessman will be intrigued to know that he is also something of a tease. In particular he enjoys joshing the press over issues such as his eventual successor.

The adland knight, who rarely misses an opportunity to schmooze with the globe's power elite, last week attended the World Economic Forum in Dalian, north-eastern China, where he granted an interview to The Daily Telegraph.

Inevitably, the question of succession to the WPP throne arose - although as the Telegraph hastened to point out, Sir Martin (62) currently "has no plans to retire from the helm of WPP".

Referred to by the legendary David Ogilvy (whose agency Sorrell bought in a hostile takeover in 1989) as an "odious little jerk", Sir Martin clearly enjoyed revealing nothing whatsoever about WPP's line of succession.

But whoever he (or she) may be, Sorrell switched to humble mode and opined that the chosen candidate "will probably do the job better" than himself.

He mused that there have been "very few people who have been able to initiate, build and then run a significant company". This he said required "two different sets of characteristics".

"The person who succeeds me is probably more likely to come from within the company than outside. They will never run the business in the same way as me . . . They may do it better and they probably will do it better, but they will never have the same attitude as me [as WPP's founder]."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff