WPP Claims It First Learned of Martin Sorrell’s Resignation From His Own Internal Memo on Saturday Night

By Patrick Coffee 

The abrupt, sudden, awkward, very confusing resignation of the man who spent 30 years as the public face of advertising is like a maze that you’re not quite sure you want to finish.

Martin Sorrell officially resigned on Saturday. That much we know. Everything else is pretty much still up in the air.


For example, we—along with many others around the world—assumed that the WPP team chose to make the news official over the weekend at 5 PM New York Time and 10 PM London time in order to bury the story.

But that’s not so, according to the holding group’s official financial PR firm, Buchanan. Here’s their statement we got today.

Far from trying to minimize the impact of announcing Sir Martin Sorrell stepping down as Chief Executive, WPP has a disclosure obligation to announce the departure of its CEO as soon as it happens and, if the financial markets are closed at the time, to ensure certain financial media outlets receive the communication. Let me assure you that a full media distribution was actioned as soon as the announcement was lodged with the London Stock Exchange’s Regulatory News Service. This distribution was not just to fulfill the obligation with the likes of Reuters, Bloomberg etc but was a full distribution across all media who follow WPP internationally.

In short, they’re saying that they did not know of their own CEO’s resignation until Project Associated, a third-party firm that represents Sorrell as a public figure, sent out his memo to all 200,000 WPP employees. They then alerted the media (including us), as per their responsibility as a publicly traded company.

Sources tell us, however, that Sorrell’s pending resignation was known to unnamed others within WPP at least a day before he made it official. Certainly seems like someone wanted to keep things a little quiet.

Not Martin, though. As one source tells us, “He has retained his own PR firm and two lawyers. He has nothing to lose.”

So maybe this was his way of taking greater control of the narrative. And yet we still have no clear idea what he allegedly did.

Not exactly the ideal way to go out.