One of WPP’s biggest investors is demanding the advertising giant launch a probe to find and punish the person responsible for leaking details of an investigation into chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell.
David Herro of Harris Associates – WPP’s second largest investor with a 6 per cent stake – met chairman Roberto Quarta and called for an inquiry into the explosive leak, which Sorrell’s camp believes must have come from a board member due to the level of detail involved.
Herro told The Mail on Sunday last night: ‘The board must investigate and punish the leaker.
Departed boSir Martin Sorrell dramatically quit the firm he set up from scratch in 1985
‘WPP is an image business.’ He added that the leak ‘negatively impacted’ the company’s reputation and a ‘smooth transition’ from the reign of Sorrell to a new chief executive.
Herro’s meeting with Quarta in New York last weekend came after Sorrell dramatically quit the firm he set up from scratch in 1985.
US business newspaper The Wall Street Journal first reported that WPP was investigating accusations against Sorrell at the beginning of the month.
The firm confirmed it had appointed lawyers to probe an ‘allegation of personal misconduct’. Relations between Sorrell and the board deteriorated rapidly.
He appointed his own lawyers and public relations advisers and friends say he is convinced the leak must have come from a ‘rarefied’ source – in other words a member of the board. Friends of Sorrell said he would be ‘very happy’ for there to be a leak inquiry.
However, one investment consultant, who asked not to be named, told The Mail on Sunday last night he would support the WPP board if it emerged one of their number had divulged details of the investigation in a bid to oust Sorrell, who angered investors by raking in more than £200million in pay between 2012 and 2016.
The consultant said: ‘Given Sorrell’s obstinacy over the years in the face of what would normally be considered intolerable investor and media scrutiny, I would like to believe it was members of the board themselves that leaked the report in a final desperate bid to hasten his succession.’
WPP published its 2017 annual report on Friday, revealing its lowest pay package for Sorrell since 2011, although the tycoon still received just under £14million.
The company is in the process of finding a successor.
A spokesman for WPP told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We take any breach of confidentiality very seriously.’