Sir Martin Sorrell Says #Brexit Vote Inspired ‘Terror’ in WPP Offices

By Patrick Coffee 

Today Sir Martin Sorrell claimed that internal polling at WPP predicted the results of last week’s “Brexit” vote, stating that “there was almost terror” among immigrant employees at the holding company’s European offices who feared that they might eventually be deported.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union shocked Cannes attendees last Thursday as it did others around the world. While discussing the Titanium Lions the following day at a press conference, Sir John Hegarty of BBH was one of many to tell the crowd how disappointed he was in his country’s decision to forcibly remove itself from the EU. The stock prices of every major holding company dropped by an average of about 5% since the news broke, though some have recovered slightly in the says since.

Early this morning on the other side of the Atlantic, a group of top executives across industries gathered in an event organized by The Times of London. Two of those leaders were Rupert Murdoch and Sorrell–and while the event was not scheduled around “Brexit,” it was perfectly timed. Sir Martin had a good bit to say about the latest developments.

Regarding the world economy’s response to Brexit, a Goldman Sachs co-CEO said “there’s no panic.” Sir Martin seemed to disagree, stating that its implications in the short term were “quite serious.” He went so far as to compare the event to a potential Donald Trump presidency, stating that WPP and other businesses had no choice but to “keep buggering on” in the face of such disruptive changes.

One source who spoke to us in Cannes predicted that the financial fallout from Brexit will be particularly difficult for agencies based in the soon-to-be-former United Kingdom, with clients moving work to shops based in more stable economies like Sweden and Germany. Sorrell essentially agreed, telling the crowd this morning that the market/clients will “probably” develop some “bias against a British-based service company” moving forward.

Like many observers, Sir Martin also sees Brexit as a win for Vladimir Putin. He predicted a “new Cold War” and made a very specific and interesting claim about WPP.

That means one of WPP’s properties located in the former Soviet Union was somehow acquired by the Russian government. Sorrell apparently did not specify which one, but several WPP networks have offices in Russia including JWT, GroupM and Geometry Global. An earlier report from last week claimed that the British action “forced” WPP to sell research group TNS Russia, which is part of Kantar Media, to the government.

Sorrell does not seem to have explained what he meant when he said that Brexit would create “opportunities.” And he remained very skeptical of the movement.

Murdoch, for one, later disagreed, stating, “This is like a prison break. We’re out.” He then went on to discuss American politics for some reason that is unclear.

At this time, no specific changes in any holding company’s business have been tied to the Brexit vote.

[Image via Twitter]