Ad giant WPP to name Mark Read CEO, replacing Martin Sorrell

Ad giant WPP to name Mark Read CEO, replacing Martin Sorrell

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The chief executive of the world’s biggest advertising firm, WPP, quit on Saturday (April 14) following an allegation of personal misconduct. David Doyle reports.
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WPP, the world’s largest advertising agency, is poised to announce that company veteran Mark Read will become its chief executive, months after the departure of founder Martin Sorrell, according to media reports on Sunday.

United Kingdom-based WPP is expected to disclose the appointment publicly early this week after details of Read’s contract have been finalized, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing an unidentified person familiar with the matter.

Read won the expected appointment to the CEO post after convincing WPP’s board members that he had the experience, vision, and leadership to head the advertising giant at a time when it faces business challenges from social media and other contenders, news agency Reuters reported.

While acknowledging a swirl of media speculation in the last few days, WPP declined to comment on Sunday. “We will announce the appointment of a new CEO as soon as agreement is reached,” company representative Richard Oldworth said in an emailed statement. 

The advertising giant has been seeking a new CEO since the abrupt departure by Sorrell, WPP’s founder, and its only previous chief executive.

In early April, WPP announced it had hired an independent counsel to investigate conduct an investigation following “an allegation of personal misconduct” involving Sorrell. 

The investigation was expected to explore whether Sorrell misused company assets, as well as whether he had been involved with improper personal behavior, the Journalreported.

Sorrell denied any impropriety.

However, eleven days after the investigation announcement, WPP publicly disclosed that Sorrell had stepped down and said the probe had concluded. The allegation against Sorrell did not involve amounts deemed material to the company’s financial operations, WPP said.

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At the time, the company said Read, CEO of Wunderman and WPP Digital, and Andrew Scott, WPP Corporate Development Director and Chief Operating Officer, Europe, would serve as joint chief operating officers of the company.

Read, 51, has experience across strategy and digital operations, Reuters reported. His experience could prove crucial at a time when WPP faces competition from Google and Facebook as part of shifts in the advertising industry.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kevin McCoy on Twitter: @kmccoynyc

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