Shares in WPP have fallen by 5.5% following the departure of chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell and as the advertising giant began a search for his replacement.
Although Sorrell's departure will help shift some of the recent negative publicity away from the company, it also weakens WPP's leadership at a time when the business is experiencing poor growth figures. The investigation is now complete, although no further statement has been issued by WPP.
He said he had decided that "in your interest, in the interest of our clients, in the interest of all shareowners, both big and small, and in the interest of all our other stakeholders, it is best for me to step aside".
WPP chairman Roberto Quarta has been made executive chairman until the appointment of a new chief executive. He will remain available to WPP to aid it in the transition process. In its 2016 annual report, WPP said succession planning was underway and a pool of internal and external candidates had been identified.
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Sorrell, whose name has been inextricably bound with WPP's identity since he reinvented the company in the '80s, has never discussed stepping down from the firm before. WPP said the allegation did not involve amounts that were material to the company. Sorrell was set to join the rest of the board early next week for scheduled meetings ahead of the company's quarterly results, making a quick resolution of the probe nearly inevitable.
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Analysts have now turned their attention to where next for WPP as it gears up for life without Sorrell.
WPP, which is present in 112 countries, serves customers such as Ford, Unilever, P&G, and a number of major corporations worldwide.
It largely outperformed its peers Omnicom, Publicis and IPG in the years that followed the financial crisis as the group pitched aggressively for new work.
The 73-year-old will be treated as having retired from the company, meaning he will be entitled to a maximum 1.65 million shares under long-term award plans dependent on WPP's performance. Its shares are down around 30 percent this year.
Sorrell owns approximately 2% of the company.
However, industry and financial analysts said that they would not read much into that speculation due in part to the age of Sir Martin, and even more importantly, WPP was and still is something he created and there lacks a likelihood that he would want to damage the business. "Good fortune and Godspeed to all of you".