Ex-WPP CEO Martin Sorrell Says We Haven’t Seen the Last of Him

Former figurehead doesn't plan to retire

Sorrell shocked the agency world when he exited WPP last month. Getty Images
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

Martin Sorrell refuses to go quietly.

In keeping with his bombastic personal style, the now-former CEO of WPP told more than 100 attendees at New York’s Techonomy conference this week that he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

This morning, both the Financial Times and PRWeek reported on the event at which Sorrell said, “I’m going to start again. I’m not going into voluntary or involuntary retirement.”

The conference comes just over one month after news that WPP’s board of directors was investigating allegations of “personal misconduct” by Sorrell shook the global ad industry. Less than two weeks later, he abruptly stepped down after 33 years at the helm of the world’s largest holding company.

Sorrell described his exit as being “extracted” in a conversation with Techonomy CEO and author David Kirkpatrick, adding that he “can see much more clearly” where the traditional advertising model’s strengths and weaknesses lie now that he is no longer directly involved in its day-to-day operations.

He expressed some degree of confidence in the business’s ability to reinvent itself after promising the audience that he would stay active. He then declined to offer Kirkpatrick any additional detail on future plans.

As noted in many of the reports following Sorrell’s resignation, his contract with WPP never included a non-compete clause. This means that he could theoretically start a new holding company that would go up against the massive global business he all but built from scratch after leaving Saatchi & Saatchi in the 1980s.

In 2017, estimates placed Sorrell’s net worth at approximately $700 million. At one point, he was the highest-paid executive in the United Kingdom.

Adweek has reached out to spokespeople for WPP and Project Associates, the London firm that represents Sorrell in a personal capacity. The former declined to comment and the latter said, “We are acting for Martin but have nothing further to add to his reported comments today.”

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.