Sir Martin Sorrell Doesn’t Make Quite Enough Money

By Patrick Coffee 


Dancing like an elderly fool wouldn’t be in character for Sir Martin Sorrell, but the WPP chief who doubles as “Britain’s best-paid CEO” is almost certainly in good spirits today.

Why? Because the holding company’s unusual executive stock options allowed him to take home a frankly ridiculous amount of money in 2014.


From 2010 to 2012, he and 16 others within WPP were allowed to buy shares in their own company and, based on its subsequent financial performance, rewarded with “up to five times the total“; this week those execs learned that they would receive “the maximum payout” on their own good fortune.

Everyday shareholders understandably protested the practice as soon as it began, and WPP killed it in 2012, but not before Sorrell and others got a piece of what was — at the time — a rapidly-expanding pie. So Sorrell made $60 million in 2014, and the vast majority came not from his own incessant labor but from a now-closed loophole within the WPP organization.

However, the fact that every shareholder made quite a bit of money as well all but ensures that any future “protests” will be limited to incessant grumbling from the trenches. And of course Sorrell and friends may now enjoy yet another laugh at the expense of Omnicom and Publicis.

Lest we think Sir Martin is a perfect embodiment of all things terrible about the agency world, he did recently take a moment to check in on his archenemy Maurice Levy. A Financial Times report summarized by Business Insider tells us that Sorrell called Levy after the recent Paris terror attacks to make sure he was OK. In the original piece, Levy also claims that the duo’s formerly cordial relationship began to turn toxic around 2003, when WPP beat back Publicis’ attempts to acquire both Y&R and Cordiant:

“From that moment, there was an animosity on his part that forced me also to be very disagreeable to him. I couldn’t accept the nonsense he talked. Constantly, from that moment, he hasn’t missed a chance to be nasty to Publicis or to me, including ad hominem attacks, which are really extremely unpleasant.”

Unnamed rivals say that Sorrell’s “greed” and “ego” may prove to “be his downfall,” but, as the CEO himself puts it, “we play to win.”

He was referring to the company’s cricket team.