When a CEO leaves a company, it tends to boost their ego if the company’s share price falls as a result. Martin Sorrell, the founder of advertising behemoth WPP, resigned over the weekend and on Monday morning the group’s stock dropped by more than 5%, wiping out some £750 million ($1.1 billion) in market value.
That said, Sorrell won’t get too much satisfaction from the decline—he owns about 2% of the company’s shares and future payouts will be in stock. Despite resigning after allegations of misusing company funds and improper personal behavior (paywall), WPP will treat Sorrell’s departure as a retirement.
Over the past year, the company’s share price has slipped by more than 30% as the ad industry suffers from spending shifting rapidly to technology platforms like Google and Facebook. Whoever succeeds Sorrell will need to decide whether the sprawling group built by the legendary ad man, which now has more than 200,000 employees worldwide, should shrink or split into parts.
Analysts and investors have been pushing WPP to sell some of its units, particularly its market-research arm, which could be worth several billion pounds, and use the money to pay down debt and return cash to shareholders. Analysts at Liberum, for their part, recommend buying WPP’s stock, arguing that the company’s underperformance to the rest of the industry is unjustified, and talk of potential asset sales after Sorrell’s departure will boost WPP’s value.
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