We Hear: Publicis Compiling a Post-Sorrell ‘Hit List’ of WPP Executives Ripe for the Plucking

By Patrick Coffee 

It seems like every article published over the past week has been some variation on “what happens after Martin.” We know, because we’ve written several of them!

Here’s a not-quite-new twist, though: which other organizations might benefit from his abrupt departure? Omnicom CEO John Wren was quick to say he’s not interested in buying any of WPP’s assets at the moment, but one doesn’t have to acquire any agencies to take advantage of the current uncertainties at the onetime House of Sorrell.


So who might swoop in and pick off some choice talent? Publicis Groupe, for one.

A reliable source tells us that this week, Publicis began compiling an “internal list” of top-level WPP talent that might be a bit more open to making a change today than they were two months ago. “Very senior leadership within the holding company” reportedly requested suggestions for this list from management. According to our sources, this is primarily occurring within the media divisions of each group—meaning Publicis Media is targeting GroupM.

Spokespeople for both networks declined to comment.

Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun also hesitated to offer any sort of conjecture about WPP in a Q&A with Adweek yesterday, saying, “I have been reading a lot of things and I think it is really inappropriate to speculate on the future of WPP at this stage.”

This may well be, but that won’t stop us from doing it. Of course, Publicis has already hired some top executives from other holding groups in recent months, most notably chief creative officer Nick Law of R/GA. Shenan Reed, who formerly led the L’Oreal business at Wavemaker, also went to Zenith in January to head up its Verizon account.

According to one WPP insider, the very creation of Wavemaker (it was a mash-up of MEC and Maxus) led to some departures and confusion over leadership roles. And of course, others were let go in the interest of cost efficiency. Expect more of that to come.

Interestingly, we’re told that Sorrell’s big “adieu” didn’t really affect daily operations at GroupM. Employees had a general sense that leadership changes were coming, especially after The Wall Street Journal broke news of the investigation launched by WPP’s board of directors.

The big question is who might get picked up by Publicis and other holding groups now that WPP is a little less secure than before (despite reassurances from co-COO Mark Read). According to one source, some of the “heavy hitters” may well be going elsewhere in the months to come.