Sorrell’s WPP sales pitch ignored

By Tim Bradshaw in London and Jamie Smyth in Dublin

WPP made shareholders at its Dublin annual meeting watch almost two hours of presentations before letting their voice be heard.

Representatives from WPP’s key new markets – Brazil, Russia, India and China – enthused about their growth prospects and Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive, charted the company’s 35 per cent compound annual revenue growth rate since he founded it in 1985.

But this sales pitch from the world’s largest advertising group, by sales and market value, was in vain: most investors had already voted by proxy before Wednesday’s meeting began.

Eventually, the only communication anyone was interested in was thrown up in lights on a billboard behind chairman Philip Lader: a sizeable 60 per cent majority of shareholders had voted against Sir Martin’s £6.8m total remuneration.

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“It was a symbol to a certain extent of the power they feel he has and whether he has too much power,” said Lucy Marcus, a regular speaker and author on board governance, who said Sir Martin’s attempt to justify his pay in the pages of the Financial Times last week “was seen to be a little bit thumbing in people’s noses”.

Ms Marcus added: “One of the reasons he’s valued is he is known for having opinions and being outspoken. But at the same time, is his compensation properly linked to results?”

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Date

13 June 2012

Organisation

FT

Sorrell’s WPP sales pitch ignored

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