LONDON (Reuters) - WPP (WPP.L) will name its unassuming former digital boss Mark Read as its new chief executive, tasked with turning around the world’s largest advertising group in the wake of Martin Sorrell’s departure, a city source told Reuters.
Read was seen as the leading internal candidate to become CEO after he spent almost nine years on the board from 2006 to 2015. He has also worked on strategy, acquisitions and digital operations since he wrote to Sorrell asking for a job in 1989.
The city source, who declined to be named because the decision is not yet public, said Read would be given the job as long as the two sides have agreed terms.
Due to publish results next Tuesday, WPP declined to comment.
Read stepped up to become WPP joint chief operating officer in April after Sorrell, its founder and the world’s most famous advertising man, quit after 33 years in charge following a complaint of personal misconduct which he denied.
He takes over the 16 billion pound company at a difficult time, as the industry goes through a period of unprecedented change as clients seek to save costs by doing some digital marketing themselves and others turn to consultants for advice.
Others are placing ads directly on Google and Facebook, cutting out the middlemen advertising groups.
The group had outperformed its peers - Omnicom (OMC.N) and IPG IPG.L in the United States, France’s Publicis (PUBP.PA) and Havas and Japan’s Dentsu (4324.T) - for years but lost its way in 2017 with organic growth disappearing.
Clients have told Reuters they hugely value WPP’s work but they want the group to be streamlined. Operating in 112 countries, WPP has 400 separate agencies that provide everything from pure advertising to media planning strategies, data research and PR.
Those 400 agencies have traditionally competed with each other, meaning clients can deal with multiple different agencies. They now want those agencies to work together to provide a more simplified service.
Read told Reuters in June that WPP needed radical change to stay ahead of the digital revolution reshaping the industry.
Some moves are already evident - the group is moving its headquarters, has revamped its website to provide a more sleek message and clients and WPP executives have told Reuters they’ve seen a more collaborative approach from the top.
Married with two young children, Read had been the popular option among senior and junior members of WPP staff spoken to by Reuters.
News of his pending appointment was first reported by the Financial Times.
Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Alexandra Hudson