There’s a slightly delicious irony in the fall-out from Sir Martin Sorrell’s departure from WPP.
In case you weren’t paying attention, Sir Martin was the biggest beast in jungle, having built his WPP empire from nothing to become the biggest group in the global advertising and communications business. In the Spring he left WPP under a cloud after vague allegations and an investigation into ‘personal misconduct’. There were juicy rumours and reports he had been seen entering a brothel in Shepherd’s Market – bit of a cliche, but still a good story, whether or not it was on company funds.
Very soon after, it emerged that Sir Marty was launching a new venture S4 Capital.
‘Why is that ironic?’ I hear you say.
Only because WPP, and The Martster in particular, were famously litigious in their enforcement of non-compete clauses when senior staff left the business. When William Eccleshare left Y&R to become CEO of BBDO he was held to a year’s gardening leave. Ditto Steve Blamer, who left Grey to join FCB. When Y & R’s management team of James Murphy, Ben Priest and David Golding jumped ship to set up their new agency, Adam & Eve, they were pursued relentlessly through the courts and the new business was held on ice for a year. And not just in the US and UK. A host of others around the world were held to draconian contract terms including Michelle Hutton of Hill & Knowlton in Australia.
But one senior staffer seems to have had no non-compete clause. Sir Martin himself.
It’s doubly noticeable, because his contract has been the subject of great controversy over the years, so presumably it has been pored over by the great and the good.
One rule for me. Another for the plebs.