WPP Co-COO Mark Read Responds to Allegations Against Martin Sorrell in All-Staff Memo

Promises to review company whistleblower policies

Read and Andrew Scott were recently promoted to chief operating officer. WPP
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In a memo sent out to all WPP employees around the world this morning, holding company co-COO and Wunderman chief executive Mark Read struck a tone of mutual respect and reassurance following reports by The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times that claimed former CEO Martin Sorrell resigned while the company’s board of directors investigated claims that he allegedly spent business funds on a prostitute.

Last weekend, a spokesperson for Sorrell said he “strenuously denies” the claims, but declined to comment further, citing a non-disclosure agreement signed when he stepped down two months ago.

The note, which went out under the subject line, “To everyone at WPP,” at the start of the business day today, did not directly address the specific claims in those stories, but did state that “all WPP working environments must be places where people feel safe and supported.”

Read also wrote that he and co-COO Andrew Scott “will lead a review of how our policies and codes of conduct are put into practice,” assigning similar responsibilities to other leaders throughout the network.

More specifically, he encouraged employees who want to file anonymous reports to use “Right to Speak,” a human resources helpline that is “managed by a third party and overseen by our internal audit function,” according to WPP’s official HR policy.

The Financial Times story, which ran Monday, reported that two employees allegedly witnessed Sorrell entering a known London brothel in 2017 and reported their concerns to senior executives “in the early months of 2018.” In April, The Wall Street Journal reported that the WPP board’s investigation concluded after finding no definitive proof that Sorrell had misused company funds.

Spokespeople for Wunderman and WPP declined to comment today.

Below is the memo in full.

When I come to work I expect to be treated with respect by my colleagues, and every one of you reading this has the right to expect the same.

You will no doubt have read the press coverage this week about WPP and Martin Sorrell, including allegations about his behaviour towards people at the parent company. Although we can’t comment on specific allegations, I feel we should remind ourselves of and reinforce the kind of values we want and need to have within every part of our business: values of fairness, tolerance, kindness and – again – respect.

It should hardly need saying that all WPP working environments must be places where people feel safe and supported. They must also be places where people are able to raise concerns if they want to, and where those concerns are dealt with when they need to be.

For many years WPP has had the “Right to Speak” helpline, available to everyone across the Group, through which you can raise issues without fear of reprisal. This is an independently operated service that protects the identity of anyone who would rather not speak directly to their line manager or other senior people about their concerns. I encourage you to use it if you ever feel the need to report something on a confidential and anonymous basis. You can find the details for the helpline in each country on InsideWPP.

In addition, Andrew and I have committed to the Board that we will lead a review of how our policies and codes of conduct are put into practice at the parent company, and how we can make improvements. Our leadership teams will be doing this throughout the Group.

We all want WPP and its agencies to continue to be home to the world’s best talent, which means creating a positive, supportive and inclusive culture in every office. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do.

In the last eight weeks I have spent a lot of time with our agencies and clients, and there is tremendous positivity and confidence about the future of the business. Let’s stay focused on that, and continuing to build a company we are all proud of.


Mark Read
Chief Operating Officer, WPP

This email was sent by: WPP 27 Farm Street London, W1J 5RJ, United Kingdom

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.