Martin Sorrell rejects 'allegations of financial impropriety' as WPP confirms investigation

Speaking to indiantelevision.com in Amsterdam a couple of years ago Sorrell had said: "I only own two per cent of the company; but I am identified with the company".

WPP's board has hired independent counsel to investigate an allegation of personal misconduct against CEO Martin Sorrell, a move that industry experts say brings up questions around the holding company's succession plans.

WPP's statement said: "The investigation is ongoing". In a statement, the company said it is investigating the matter, but said that the amount of money in question wouldn't have a material effect on WPP, which had revenue of 15.3 billion pounds ($21.5 billion) past year.

Sir Sorrell has been at the helm of WPP since its formation in media services back in 1989, overseeing its rise to become the largest advertising firm in the world.

"I reject the allegation unreservedly, but recognise that the company has to investigate it", said the 73-year-old, one of Britain's best-known and highest-paid CEOs.

"Obviously, I shall play no part in the management of the investigation underway", he said.

But WPP's share price is 30 per cent down following dismal results and a number of profit warnings, the latest slipped out before Easter. Mr Sorrell has instructed London firm Lewis Silkin to represent him in relation to the inquiry.

Sir Martin has branded the situation "not pretty" but denies direct dealing by digital giants is having a significant impact.

Sorrell built London-based WPP from an investment in a shopping-basket manufacturer into the owner of blue-chip agencies.

One source told the Journal that the board is also looking into alleged improper behavior from Sorrell. The conglom reported a 0.9 percent drop in revenues.

WPP plc American Depositary Shares stock traded down $1.42 during midday trading on Wednesday, reaching $77.39.

WPP, which owns ad agencies Ogilvy & Mather, JWT, Y&R and Grey, had revenue of more than US$19 billion previous year, but has lost a third of its market value over the past 12 months. The average 1-year price target among brokerages that have issued a report on the stock in the last year is GBX 1,622.56 ($22.78).

  • Joey Payne