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JWT CEO Gustavo Martinez Resigns Amid Suit Accusing Him of Racist, Sexist Comments

Chief client team officer Tamara Ingram immediately assumes the role

The agency's global head of PR filed the suit against Martinez last week. Image courtesy of YouTube: Mercado Negro Ad

One week after JWT global communications chief Erin Johnson filed a discrimination suit against agency chairman and CEO Gustavo Martinez, the embattled executive has resigned.

The agency's parent company confirmed in a statement on its home page this morning that Martinez will be replaced by WPP chief client team officer Tamara Ingram, effective immediately.

"Following recent events," the statement reads, "Tamara Ingram, currently Chief Client Team Officer at WPP, (NASDAQ: WPPGY) has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of J. Walter Thompson Company, replacing Gustavo Martinez, with immediate effect. By mutual agreement, Martinez has resigned in the best interest of the J. Walter Thompson Company."

Ingram, who led the P&G business at WPP for more than a decade, became one of the most powerful female executives in advertising when she was promoted last year.

According to the statement, she will be replaced immediately by WPP global business development director George Rogers, who will also retain his previous position.

Last week, WPP stood by Martinez after Johnson filed a suit in federal court accusing him of making "an unending stream of racist and sexist comments" that made her job as global head of PR for JWT "virtually impossible." Earlier this week, various crisis experts told Adweek that WPP may have been too hasty in defending Martinez. It appears the company will no longer do so.

The latest developments in the case involved the introduction of a DVD that, according to Johnson's legal team, includes footage of Martinez joking about rape and making racist statements about African Americans at a Miami hotel in 2015. The team also amended its complaint to note that Martinez effectively accused Johnson of perjury in his initial statement denying her accusations.

WPP then announced, via internal memo from CEO Sir Martin Sorrell, that it would retain the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP to "conduct an independent investigation into the allegations in the complaint" by interviewing employees who had direct contact with Martinez.

We'll update this story as it develops.

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