SIR MARTIN SORRELL

Chief executive officer, WPP

Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

EDUCATION

Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, class of 1963

“I did pretty well in economics. Latin was my bête noire.”

Christ’s College, Cambridge, class of 1966

Harvard Business School, MBA, class of 1968

“My father oversaw the retail division of Firth Cleveland, run by Sir Charles Hayward. When I was 14, he asked me, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ I said, ‘I want to go into business.’ He said, ‘Then you should go to Harvard Business School.’ It stuck in my mind.”

WORK EXPERIENCE

1968-69

Marketing associate, Glendinning Associates

1969-71

Vice president, IMG

“I met Mark McCormack in business school. In 1969, he asked if I would start IMG’s operation in the U.K.”

1972-76

Financial adviser for James Gulliver

“I was grandly called his personal financial adviser, but I was really his gofer. He did a deal with the Saatchis, these young brothers [Charles and Maurice] who were building an advertising agency in the U.K., and they eventually merged.”

1977-85

Chief financial officer, Saatchi & Saatchi

“They let me do exactly what I wanted to do. The one thing that was taboo was to talk to a reporter. I had total freedom, as long as I didn’t speak to the press.

Maurice Saatchi used to always say, ‘You want to be the biggest and the best. And if you were the best, you became the biggest.’ ”

1986-PRESENT

Chief executive officer, WPP

“I was going through my male menopause. But I love the business to this day. It’s like consulting, but it’s more fun. The people are more quirky.”

1987

WPP acquires J. Walter Thompson for $566 million

1989

WPP acquires the Ogilvy Group for $864 million

When WPP bought Ogilvy & Mather, David Ogilvy famously called Sorrell an “odious little jerk.”

“We sent a ‘bear hug’ letter in which I offered to make David Ogilvy chairman. The CEO never showed it to him. When I later met with him, I gave him a copy of it. That turned David around. He became our chairman.”

2000

WPP acquires Young & Rubicam Group for $5.7 billion; Queen Elizabeth II knights Sorrell

The Queen puts the sword on your shoulders and then on your head. She said to me, ‘Are you still involved in the business?’ I said, ‘Yes, ma’am, unless you know something that I don’t. In which case, I better get back to the office.’ ”

2005

WPP acquires Grey Global Group for $1.5 billion

WPP now has a $24 billion market cap and roughly 165,000 employees.

LIFE LESSONS

1. “Persistence and speed.” 2. “Always have someone you can confide in for advice.” 3. “There’s no such thing as stress. It’s that you’re not having fun.”

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