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Volume 7 No. 82

People and Pop Culture

Martin Sorrell was accused by former colleagues of treating assistants poorly.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

More than 25 people who "worked closely" with former WPP CEO MARTIN SORRELL discussed what triggered a "chain of events" that led to him "stepping down from a business he had spent 33 years building," according to Marriage & Garrahan of the FINANCIAL TIMES. What emerged is "a picture of routine verbal abuse of underlings" and a blending of Sorrell's corporate and private life that "jarred with some colleagues -- particularly over his company expenditure," some of which was also extended to his wife, CRISTIANA SORRELL. In the weeks following the 73-year-old's departure, there has been "criticism of the company's handling of the matter, in particular the lack of disclosure over the reasons for his exit." Sorrell was "able to walk away from WPP with his multimillion-pound incentive arrangements intact." Initial "disquiet has turned to anger among some shareholders and employees" after he announced last month that he was launching his own advertising group, "a potential competitor to WPP." The absence of any information beyond WPP saying that an investigation into alleged personal misconduct "concluded" has led to "wild and unsourced speculation about his departure." But interviews with a range of WPP employees, past and present, have "allowed a picture of events to emerge," which centers on an "alleged visit to a Mayfair brothel one year ago" -- said to have been witnessed by two employees, one of whom later reported it to the company. This alleged incident "raised questions about the possible use of company funds and appeared to fit a pattern where personal and company expenses were hard to separate." Sorrell's treatment of his assistants and other junior colleagues was "well known among senior staff, but they did not know how to respond when they witnessed it," according to current and former execs within the WPP group. One former exec said, "He was brutal and inhuman in how he dealt with his assistants. He would say 'You're fucking idiots, what's fucking wrong with you.' ... He had a real dark side." A former WPP board member added, "I never had a problem with Martin. He never raised his voice or shouted at me. But [with the] PAs in his office who rotated in and out with a lot of frequency, he used to treat them pretty badly." Sorrell accepted he "can be difficult at times, especially in cases of poor performance," but he denies he "mistreated, abused or bullied staff." His supporters "point to the longevity of many people's careers in diverse roles at all levels at WPP." While there have been exceptions, exec assistants working in Sorrell's "immediate orbit" have "typically lasted no more than 18 months or so." For many, the job "proved just too demanding." As one former employee said, "After a year, my doctor told me that if I continued I would be dead" (FT, 6/11).

Uber Chief Brand Officer BOZOMA SAINT JOHN is leaving the ride sharing firm to "become CMO of Endeavor." She will "oversee marketing efforts for the entirety of the holding group," which includes WME, Professional Bull Riders, UFC and ad agency Droga5 (AD WEEK, 6/11). ... Reebok named former Nike Global Creative Dir KAREN REUTHER to the same role (WOMEN'S WEAR DAILY, 6/11). ... Barbados FA President RANDOLPH HARRIS was elected president of the Caribbean Football Union, "having briefly acted as head of the regional football union" since the suspension of Antiguan GORDON DERRICK from FIFA last year (BARBADOS TODAY, 6/11). ... Premiership Rugby side Harlequins appointed BILLY MILLARD as GM of rugby. The 48-year-old will "work closely" with new Head of Rugby PAUL GUSTARD and will be responsible for "all aspects of off-field rugby operations." Australian Millard was previously GM of USA Rugby and Cardiff Blues (BBC, 6/12). ... TONY MCGLENNAN will "leave the role of Scottish FA compliance officer." He took on the role in '14, "assuming responsibility for determining which players, coaches and other officials should face disciplinary charges" (BBC, 6/12). 

COACHES/MANAGERS: Egyptian club Al Ahly appointed PATRICE CARTERON as head coach on a two-year contract. The club had been "searching for a replacement" for HOSSAM EL BADRY, who left his position last month (BBC, 6/12). ... Women's Super League side Liverpool Ladies appointed Doncaster Rovers Belles Manager NEIL REDFEARN as manager. The former Leeds United men's coach replaced SCOTT ROGERS (BBC, 6/12).

The Chinese FA banned China int'l WANG SHENCHAO for 12 months after he "sneaked a necklace onto the pitch and wore it in a game against Myanmar." Wang plays for Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG (SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, 6/12). ... DAVID HAYE announced his retirement from boxing at the age of 37. The former WBA heavyweight champion insisted he would stop fighting if he again lost to TONY BELLEW in their rematch last month, and "having shown significant signs of decline before being stopped in five rounds he has confirmed he no longer plans to fight" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/12).