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Martin Sorrell, head of the world’s largest advertising agency, is stepping down immediately after 33 years heading the company he founded, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Sorrell’s abrupt departure from WPP comes after an investigation was launched by the company’s board that was made public by the Journal at the beginning of the month.
The board reportedly was looking into whether Sorrell, 73, had misused company assets and also allegations of “improper personal behavior.”
WPP released a statement saying that the investigation into the allegation of misconduct had been concluded. The allegation “did not involve amounts that are material,” the statement said.
Sorrell will be treated by the company as retired.
“Obviously I am sad to leave WPP after 33 years. It has been a passion, focus and source of energy for so long. However, I believe it is in the best interests of the business if I step down now,” Sorrell said in a statement.
Mark Read, chief executive of WPP agency Wunderman, and Andrew Scott, WPP corporate development director and chief operating officer, Europe, have been appointed as joint-chief operating officers of the company, the Journal reported. Roberto Quarta, currently chairman of the board, will be executive chairman until a new CEO is appointed.
The company, WWP, was formed when Sorrell took control of a shell company called Wire Plastic Products, which had originally made wire shopping carts. He turned it into WWP, a marketing services firm, in 1986. Today it has more than 3,000 offices in 112 countries.
Sorrell was one of the highest paid executives in the United Kingdom, earning almost $100 million in 2016.
WPP had lost significant value in recent years, in part due to massive changes in advertising and the advertising industry. The company’s value has dropped by more than a quarter over the past year.