Martin Sorrell Denies WSJ Report, Says He Didn’t Use WPP Money for a Prostitute

Former CEO cites NDA agreement

Sorrell is set to appear at the Cannes Lions Festival this month, at an event with author Ken Auletta. Getty Images
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

According to a story by The Wall Street Journal this weekend, former WPP CEO Martin Sorrell’s recent resignation happened while the board of directors investigated allegations that he spent company money on the services of one or more prostitutes.

Through a personal spokesperson, Sorrell denied the claims but declined to elaborate, citing a nondisclosure agreement signed when he abruptly resigned from his position atop the world’s largest advertising company two months ago.

“Sir Martin signed a nondisclosure agreement when he stepped down, which precludes him from discussing any of the circumstances surrounding his departure. He has rigidly adhered to this obligation and will continue to do so,” a representative wrote.

The statement continued, “As regards to the allegations which have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Sir Martin strenuously denies them. He will be making no further comment at this time.”

A spokesperson for the holding group said: “WPP has been advised that it cannot disclose details of the allegations against Sir Martin Sorrell because it is prohibited by data protection law from giving such details. Sir Martin chose to resign at the conclusion of the investigation by independent legal counsel.”

The Wall Street Journal cited “people familiar with the matter” on Saturday. Similar allegations first surfaced last month by the U.K. gossip blog and email newsletter PopBitch.

In April, the Journal reported that WPP’s board had begun investigating reports of “improper personal behavior” and “possible misuse of assets,” with a representative saying the amounts in question were “not material” to the holding company. Sorrell stepped down less than two weeks later.

This weekend’s report comes after Sorrell announced he would return to the ad industry after taking over a little-known medical tech firm called Derriston Capital, which he has renamed S4. Last week, he told WPP shareholders that his new venture would not directly challenge the holding group in which he still owns approximately 2 percent of all shares.

The development also follows news that WPP parted ways with Gustavo Martinez, the former JWT CEO who some believed would eventually take Sorrell’s place, approximately two months after the company settled a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him in 2016.

In Sorrell’s absence, leadership of WPP has fallen to co-COOs Mark Read and Andrew Scott, along with chairman Roberto Quarta. WPP’s annual general meeting of shareholders is scheduled for next week in London, where members will vote on Mr. Quarta’s status and review potential structural changes to the company.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.