Ad giant WPP names insider Read as CEO to succeed Sorrell

Mark Read’s total pay is set to be lower than that received by Martin Sorrell

WPP Plc appointed Mark Read as chief executive to succeed its long-time leader Martin Sorrell, picking the internal favorite to usher in a new culture and direction at the advertising giant.

Read has been helping to run the world’s largest ad company as interim co-chief operating officer since Sorrell’s sudden April departure and starts as CEO immediately.

The 51-year-old takes the helm at a tough time for WPP and the ad industry. The company’s shares have been hit as the consumer goods industry cuts ad spending and competition intensifies with new digital rivals. WPP, a vast network of hundreds of ad agencies including J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy, was forced to find a new leader when Sorrell resigned after a board probe into allegations of misconduct, which he denied.

More thoughtful

Read is popular internally: a dozen WPP executives interviewed by Bloomberg in recent weeks said he is more collaborative and thoughtful than Sorrell, and they believe he has the company know-how to revive WPP’s fortunes. The priority for WPP’s board is pursuing a clear vision for change and fostering a culture that attracts the best and brightest, chairman Roberto Quarta said in a statement.

Bloomberg reported on August 31st that WPP was preparing to appoint Read as CEO as early as this week. WPP’s shares were unchanged at £12.78 at 8:09am in London.

Read will be paid an annual salary of £975,000 plus the opportunity for bonuses. His total pay is set to be lower than that received by Sorrell, after a string of shareholder rebellions led WPP to curb maximum pay packages. For many years, Sorrell was the highest-paid CEO in Britain’s FTSE 100 index of leading companies.

Read’s contract also includes clauses that restrict him from going to work for a rival firm, or competing against WPP should he leave. WPP came under fire after it emerged in April that Sorrell’s contract did not include such provisions.

Andrew Scott, who has shared the interim co-COO job with Read since April, will stay on as COO on a permanent basis. Quarta, who had become executive chairman when Sorrell left, has resumed his role as chairman. – Bloomberg