The world’s largest advertising agency, WPP, faced a shareholder revolt over its handling of the departure of former CEO Martin Sorrell after huge votes against the chairman and the company remuneration report.
The most famous advertising executive in the world, Sorrell in April quit the marketing giant he built from scratch following an allegation of personal misconduct.
Nearly 30 percent of WPP shareholders failed to back its executive pay proposal Wednesday, while almost 17 % of shareholder votes declined to support the re-election of Roberto Quarta as chairman.
Sorrell was permitted to leave with share awards worth millions of pounds intact and without a non-compete clause, rekindling arguments that have dogged previous annual meetings — that WPP paid Sorrell too much and did not prepare for his departure.
Neither Sorrell nor the company have revealed the nature of the complaint, but Sorrell — who has already launched a new venture — has denied any wrongdoing.
Quarta said at the starting of the group’s annual meeting that the process the board followed in response to the allegation against Sorrell was robust from a governance and legal perspective.
He said share awards due in future to Sorrell predated the current board’s involvement and that he accepted that some investors found the situation unsatisfactory.
“I know that questions remain, but there is simply nothing further we can legally disclose,” Quarta said.
Quarta told investors that the hunt for a new chief executive was well advanced and moving ahead rapidly.
WPP is the world’s biggest ad group, employing more than 200,000 staff in agencies including JWT, Ogilvy & Mather and Group M.