Sir Martin Sorrell steps down as WPP CEO

Sir Martin Sorrell has overseen the transformation of WPP from a small maker of shopping trolleys to a global advertising giant

Sorrell's 1985 investment in Wire & Plastic Products and string of acquisitions of advertising companies effectively founded WPP, making him an executive seen by some as irreplaceable for his direct access to clients and active hand on a sprawling network of agencies. The exact value depends on the company's performance. WPP plc American Depositary Shares has a 12 month low of $76.68 and a 12 month high of $113.51.

As per the official press release issued on the company site, "the previously announced investigation into an allegation of misconduct against Sorrell has concluded". The independent law firm in charge of investigation was due to deliver its findings to the board by next Friday but details of the misconduct allegation and the outcome of the probe will now not be made public.

Sorrell had denied allegations of misuse of company funds and improper personal behaviour, according to British media reports.

"However, I believe it is in the best interests of the business if I step down now", he said. His £70m payout in 2015 was one of the biggest in United Kingdom corporate history.

Sorrell's last few words in his farewell note will not only tug at WPP staff's heartstrings but nearly anyone's. Robert Quarta, Chairman of WPP, becomes Executive Chairman until the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer... There is speculation that two long-serving WPP executives, Mark Read, global chief executive of Wunderman, and Andrew Scott, COO of WPP Europe, could share leadership duties on an interim basis.

This would make them the front running internal candidates to take over from Sorrell, as the board also readies to reach out to its "constantly refined list of external candidates".

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"The allegation did not involve amounts that are material", it said.

Sorrell, who will continue to be available to the board with his valued guidance signed off saying, "As a Founder, I can say that WPP is not just a matter of life or death, it was, is and will be more important than that".

"The question to Quarta is how do we create shareholder value from this position. Obviously, I shall play no part in the management of the investigation under way", he added.

The company's board is already running the rule over whether it should explore a sale of Kantar, its market research arm, which could be worth £3bn.

The marketing services industries are being buffeted by accelerating trends such as zero-based budgeting, which has led to many consumer-facing companies abandoning increases in marketing spending.