Diana Marszalek 04 Apr 2018 // 2:10PM GMT
LONDON — WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell is denying allegations that he misused company funds — a charge that has prompted the company’s board to launch an investigation into one of the marketing industry's most powerful executives.
“Reports in the media have stated that WPP is investigating an allegation of financial impropriety by me, specifically as to the use of company funds. This allegation is being investigated by a law firm,” Sorrell said in a statement. “I reject the allegation unreservedly but recognise that the company has to investigate it. I understand that this process will be completed shortly.”
Sorrell’s statement, released by communications agency Project Associates, comes a day after the Wall Street Journal first reported that WPP launched a probe into allegations that he misused company assets and exhibited improper behavior.
In a short statement, WPP confirmed that it has appointed an independent counsel to conduct the investigation “in response to an allegation of personal misconduct” against Sorrell. While the company didn’t elaborate, it did note, “The allegations do not involve amounts which are material to WPP.”
Sorrell, who has tirelessly expanded WPP during his three-decade tenure, said he “obviously” will play no part in managing the investigation, and said his commitment to the organization is unwavering.
“As a significant share owner, my commitment to the company, which I founded over 30 years ago, remains absolute — to our people, our clients, our shareholders and all of our many stakeholders,” he said.
The investigation comes amidst some high-profile moves by Sorrell, most notably greater agency consolidation following the merger of Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe announced in February.
Sorrell said simplifying the business is among his goals after admitting that 2017 "was not a pretty year” for the group, which reported a 0.9 percent drop in net sales and forecast no growth for 2018.