Forensic, focused, cantankerous: nine reflections on Sorrell and his style
1) ‘Intensely’ focused on people
Writing on LinkedIn, former Burson-Marsteller UK boss Matt Carter gives a story that somewhat contradicts the money-focused image of Sorrell: “I remember emailing him when I was considering my next move. He replied within a minute and what followed was a lengthy exchange about opportunities. Most global CEOs wouldn’t have replied, many would have passed me on to HR. He knew his business was about people and he was intensely focused on them. Oh, and the numbers…”
2) P&L knowledge ‘forensic’
Justin Cooke, vice chair of Unicef UK and former CEO and founder of WPP digital agency Possible UK, said on LinkedIn: There are few people on the planet more driven and focused than Sir Martin… He demonstrated a forensic knowledge of your companies P&L.
“I never had an email go unanswered. Often a succinct reply would appear in minutes. From dawn until dusk his commitment was Olympic. He was passionate about talent and despite a relentless work ethic understood the importance of family.”
3) Well-timed announcement
Several commentators, including the CEO of UK agency W and PRWeek editor-in-chief Danny Rogers, noted the timing of the news of Sorrell’s departure.
— Adam Mack (@Macka7) April 14, 2018
And right after the 10 o’clock news.
— Mark Banham (@Banham72) April 14, 2018
All deliberate presumably…
— Danny Rogers (@dannyrogers2001) April 14, 2018
4) ‘Good riddance’
“So long to the man who dismantled more wonderful agency cultures, than one can count. Good riddance,” posted Canadian freelance creative Craig Redmond on LinkedIn – one of several to have rued WPP’s impact on agency life.
Redmond is not the only person with a less-than-glowing tribute to Sorrell.
On the subject of his personality, Omnicom PR Group’s Europe CEO David Gallagher remembered a meeting between the two, which PRCA chief Francis Ingham also recalled.
Once chaired a panel with Sir Martin. He was cantankerous, a bit off topic and, well, will leave it at that.
But it’s undeniable his company has been a transformative force in our industry and his agencies produce remarkable talent with bright futures. https://t.co/TgHk2nMoJV
— David Gallagher (@TBoneGallagher) April 15, 2018
I do believe I was there. @PRCA_UK National Conference. He’s wasn’t exactly tactful. But he was ‘him’. And don’t we all want to to be so? https://t.co/GCKU0SNdjO
— Francis Ingham (@Ingers1975) April 15, 2018
6) Defining legacy
Nonetheless, Ingham and many others, including Finsbury boss Roland Rudd, paid tribute to his achievements.
Martin Sorrell has shaped our industry into the global success story that it is today. His legacy is a defining and positive one for PR https://t.co/R6aFgn95vU
— Francis Ingham (@Ingers1975) April 14, 2018
I doubt we will see the like of Martin Sorrell again. It took vision, risk, innovation, determination and energy to build a global leader. Some have some of those qualities; very few have all.
— Roland Rudd (@RolandRudd) April 14, 2018
7) ‘Iron hand’
The Guardian’s media business correspondent Mark Sweney wrote yesterday: “Sorrell’s unique relationship with WPP allowed him to run it autocratically with an iron hand – leading to a “Sorrellcentricity” that critics say had made it his personal fiefdom. These are methods his successor cannot hope to be allowed to employ.”
8) ‘Enormous energy’
BBC business editor Simon Jack wrote of the man himself: “Sir Martin is a man of enormous energy and you wouldn’t put it past him to create a new media empire.
Jack said of his company: “I’ve never met anyone who could explain any logic behind the way WPP’s empire was constructed, and shareholders are now ready for a change.”
9) Intriguing possibility
Financial Times columnist Matthew Vincent is one of those to mull the question of what Sir Martin does next.
“Details of Sir Martin’s employment terms throw up another intriguing possibility: he could start a new business competing against his successor, if he wished to write his own final act of the WPP drama,” he wrote. “Apparently, he is free to start a new advertising venture because he has never had a non-compete agreement, according to people briefed on the matter.”
However, others have dismissed this suggestion.