WPP CEO Mark Read has kyboshed a £600,000 ($A1.076 million) bonus payment to Sir Martin Sorrell after it was alleged the former supremo had leaked sensitive information about WPP’s operations to journalists while still at the helm of the world’s biggest media company.
It’s alleged that Sorrell, who led the business for 33 years up until being terminated in 2018, had disqualified himself from any payouts by apparently leaking sensitive client information while he was still at WPP.
Sorrell, of course, went on to found S4 which then proceeded to actively target WPP clients.
Although any actual evidence is sketchy, WPP has said it withheld the payments because of “disclosure of confidential information” during Sorrell’s tenure as CEO.
The war of words between the two has raged since Sorrell’s rancorous departure back in 2018 that included allegations – subsequently denied and proven unfounded – that he’d used company credit cards for call girls.
The 76-year-old Sorrell – whose personal wealth is reportedly in the vicinity of £400 million ($A717 million) – immediately hit back, accusing WPP of being “petty”, full of “blind rage” and “just another case of peanut envy”.
Sorrell added: “It’s a bit rich that they’re accusing me of leaks, given their own over the last three years. They’ve had to go back several years to try and find an excuse to deny me what’s mine.”
Sorrell remains a majority shareholder in WPP, holding two per cent of the company’s shares.
Sorrell and Read have publicly sparred ever since the former’s departure from the business. The ongoing row was revealed yesterday when WPP published its annual report, which said Sorrell would no longer receive shares awarded under the firm’s Executive Performance Share Plan (EPSP) in 2016 and 2017.
According to WPP’s annual report: “The Compensation Committee exercised its discretion under the terms of the EPSP to make malus adjustments.”
It added: “It determined that the 2016 and 2017 EPSP Awards granted to Sir Martin Sorrell, the former group chief executive, will lapse as a result of Sir Martin Sorrell’s disclosure of confidential information belonging to WPP and certain of its clients to the media during his tenure as a WPP director.”
The annual report showed Sorrell had been awarded 1.2 million shares under the EPSP scheme but because of his departure he would only receive a fraction of them at most.
Around £200,000 ($A358,000) is thought to have been at stake from the 2016 award and another £400,000 ($A717,000) for 2017.
However, WPP said its compensation committee had decided Sorrell’s stock should be left to lapse, invoking a clawback clause.
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