Internal Memo: Ogilvy CEO John Seifert Promises Not to Let Martin Sorrell Down

By Patrick Coffee Comment

Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Get ready to hear a whole lot more about Sir Martin Sorrell this week as everyone weighs in on the three decades he spent as the public face of the ad industry.

Was he a genius, a menace, or some combination thereof?

Did he turn what had been a creatively-focused business into a more transactional one, all but erasing the very thing that made advertising special? Or was he a brilliant businessman who saved many agency leaders from their own worst instincts?

There’s little doubt that Martin had many detractors and made plenty of enemies. One¬†described him as “a real vindictive guy” who never missed an opportunity to belittle his competitors.

One key partner, however, has fonder memories of time spent working under Sir Sorrell: Ogilvy CEO John Seifert.

Here is the full memo he sent out to staff yesterday, after news of Sorrell’s immediate resignation broke.

I’m writing to share some perspective on yesterday’s announcement from Roberto Quarta, chairman of WPP, that Martin Sorrell has stepped down as CEO of WPP with immediate effect.

First, I am deeply saddened to lose Martin as a boss and mentor. He has been unconditionally supportive of me personally and professionally for nearly 30 years. As so many others have noted, he was an absolute force in shaping the modern industry we work in today. As a founder, his energy and passion for all things WPP was simply extraordinary.

I have spent today speaking with colleagues from across WPP and we are all united in our determination to serve the needs of our people, our clients, and all those with a stake in WPP. We won’t let Martin down for all that he has personally done for the greater good of the company.

The announcement from Roberto and the WPP Board is clear. A search is underway for Martin’s successor. In the meantime, Mark Read, Chief Executive of Wunderman, and Andrew Scott, Corporate Development Director and Chief Operating Officer for WPP in Europe, will co-lead the Group reporting to Roberto. We know Mark and Andrew well. They have our full support and confidence.

Given the suddenness of these developments, we know that many of our people and clients will have questions. We will do our best to share what we know and reassure everyone of our absolute commitment to meeting their needs and expectations going forward. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me as necessary.

As Ogilvy, we are committed to meeting our responsibilities as a valued operating company of the WPP Group. We have the full support of Roberto and the Board on our “Next Chapter” transformation agenda.

Please join me in thanking Martin for all that he has done for us. It has been a privilege to work with him.

We go forward with enormous pride and confidence.

My deepest thanks for your support.

An Ogilvy spokesperson declined to comment on the memo.