Martin Sorrell resigns as head of WPP

Martin Sorrell resigns as head of WPP

"The allegation did not involve amounts that are material".

It took Sorrell decades to turn an investment in a wire shopping basket manufacturer into the world's largest advertising company, a colossus of more than 400 agencies across 112 countries, counting 200,000 employees.

"Obviously I am sad to leave WPP after 33 years", Sorrell said in a statement.

He said he had decided that "in your interest, in the interest of our clients, in the interest of all shareowners, both big and small, and in the interest of all our other stakeholders, it is best for me to step aside".

"His departure will leave the company he built virtually from ‎scratch facing profound questions about its future direction", he said.

The company said Sorrell would be available to assist with the transition, and the man synonymous with the British marketing group told the staff they would come through this hard time.

However, "in the end, it was the trends in world business that wrong-footed the sprawling empire he created". Sorrell was set to join the rest of the board early next week for scheduled meetings ahead of the company's quarterly results, making a quick resolution of the probe nearly inevitable.

Roberto Quarta described Sir Martin as being the "driving force" behind WPP's growth and thanked him for his commitment to the business. During this time, the Company has been successful because it has valued and nurtured outstanding talent at every level - within and well beyond our leadership teams.

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

Sir Martin was born in London and educated at the Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School before going on to read Economics at Christ's College, Cambridge.

He joined the Saatchi and Saatchi advertising agency in 1975 before founding WPP.

WPP, then Wire and Plastic Products, was a United Kingdom manufacturer of wire baskets for the first 14 years of its life until 1985 when Sir Martin took a loan out against shares he owned in Saatchi & Saatchi and purchased a stake in the company after seeking a public entity through which he could build a marketing company.

He previously worked at Saatchi & Saatchi, and was knighted in the Queen's New Year honours list in 2000.

Many executives recount stories of the CEO taking contract losses personally, including one who told Reuters how Sorrell had shared an hour's auto journey in complete silence after his rival mentioned an account he had recently won from WPP.

In a statement also released last night, Sorrell said: "The current disruption we are experiencing is simply putting too much unnecessary pressure on the business".

However, he always fiercely defended his income, saying it was related to how well the company he started from nothing was doing.

Sir Martin Sorrell has been at the helm of the company for 33 years since taking control in 1986.