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Twenty-pound-notes.jpg This article is part of the Lobbying Portal, a sunlight project from Spinwatch.

WPP is one of the big three marketing and communications conglomerates along with Interpublic and Omnicom. In 2011 WPP employ over 146,000 people (including associates) operating out of almost 2,400 offices in 107 countries. [1] The scale and revenue of the company have grown dramatically since 2001.

WPP's 2001 revenues were $5791m: Advertising accounted for 46%; specialist communications, 27%; info and consultancy, 15%; and public relations and affairs, 12.3%. Including associates, the Group had over 65,000 full-time people in over 1,400 offices in 103 countries at the end of 2001. In 2001 WPP worked for over 300 of the Fortune Global 500 companies and over half of the Nasdaq 100. WPP serviced 330 national or multi-national clients in three or more disciplines and over 150 clients in four disciplines. Globally, WPP worked with over 100 clients in six or more countries (WPP, 2001, p. 2).

By 2010 the firm's estimated revenues were £11.6 billion. [2]

The global WPP group encompasses the J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy & Mather, Tempus, Grey Global and Young & Rubicam advertising agencies. The conglomerate also includes public relations, lobbying, media planning and buying, marketing and research services through Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller, MindShare and The Kantar Group.

Evolution of the group

WPP czar Martin Sorrell was the 'third brother' acting as finance director at Saatchi & Saatchi (now part of Publicis) from 1975 to 1986 before acquiring UK shopping cart manufacturer Wire & Plastic Products (WPP). He used WPP as a vehicle for acquiring 'below-the-line' advertising-related businesses.

In 1987 he made a successful US$566m hostile bid for the venerable J. Walter Thompson. Two years later he expanded the group through the US$825m purchase of the equally prestigious Ogilvy & Mather, despite opposition from ad icon David Ogilvy (1911-1999).

In 2003 WPP successfully bid for the ailing Cordiant group, acquired for a mere US$17 million (plus assumption of debts). It acquired Grey Global in 2004 with cash and shares worth just over US$1.3bn (£720m). As of 2000 Grey had sales of US$1,247 million and earnings of US$19 million.Source [1]


  • Philip Lader Non-executive chairman
  • Sir Martin Sorrell Chief executive. Martin Sorrell joined WPP in 1986 as a director, becoming Group chief executive in the same year. e-mail: msorrell@wpp.com
  • Paul Richardson Executive director and Director of Finance
  • Mark Read Executive Director and Strategy Director
  • Colin Day, Non-Executive Director and Member of the Audit Committee and Compensation Committee
  • Esther Dyson, Non-Executive Director and Member of the Compensation Committee and Nomination Committee
  • Orit Gadiesh, Non-executive Director and Member of the Nomination Committee
  • Ruigang Li, Non-Executive Director
  • Stanley (Bud) Morten, Senior independent director (until April 2010)
  • Koichiro Naganuma, Non-Executive Director
  • Lubna Olayan, Non-Executive Director and Member of the Nomination Committee
  • John Quelch, Non-Executive Director
  • Jeffrey Rosen, Non-Executive Director, Chairman of the Compensation Committee and Member of the Audit Committee Senior independent director (from April 2010)
  • Timothy Shriver, Non-Executive Director and Member of the Compensation Committee
  • Paul Spencer, Non-Executive Director and Chairman of the Audit Committee
  • Sol Trujillo, Non-Executive Director and Member of the Audit Committee

Former Directors

Vocal on tax issues

Boss Martin Sorrell long made a big noise over Britain's 'uncompetitive' tax regime under the Labour government, and in 2008 he moved WPP's tax base to Ireland. So his much trumpeted promise to return to the UK after George Osborne's 2011 budget hailed a massive 5 per cent cut to corporation tax and changes to the way overseas profits are taxed was a big coup for the Coalition. Critics called it a "carefully stage-managed" announcement as part of Osborne's drive to show Britain was "open for business"

But it was hardly surprising, given that the advertising giant has a seat on the HM Treasury's Business Forum on Tax and Competitiveness, a talking shop where business and Treasury ministers come together ‘to discuss ways in which Government can improve the competitiveness of UK’s tax system’.

Sorrell admitted to the Guardian that there had been discussions between WPP and the government "for many months, and particularly since the [2010] Davos summit".

The coalition from the very beginning had said it was crucially important that Britain had a competitive tax landscape," he said. "They've gone further than I expected on corporate [tax] and also on personal taxation." The higher income tax rate of 50p is expected to be cut. [4]

Biggest FTSE 100 user of tax havens

A new tax havens database compiled by the anti-poverty charity ActionAid in October 2011 revealed just how embedded the use of tax havens is in the structures of nearly all Britain’s biggest companies.

It found that WPP was the biggest FTSE 100 tax haven user overall with 611 tax haven companies. [5]

Subsidiaries as of April 2010

24/7 Real Media | Blue State Digital | Deliver | Fabric Worldwide (Investmetn) | iconmobile (Associate) | Johannes Leonardo (Investment) | Possible Worldwide | Syzygy (Associate)| The Media Innovation Group | True Worldwide (Investment)

  • WPP Digital partner companies

Ace Metrix (Investment) | Buddy Media (Investment) | eCommera (Investment) | HDT Holdings Technology (Investment) | In Game Ad Interactive (Investment) | Invidi (Investment) | Jumptap (Investment) | LiveWorld (Investment) | Moment Systems (Investment) | Proclivity (Investment) | Sat Media (Investment) | Visible Technologies (Associate) | Visible World (Investment) | Wild Tangent (Investment) | Yield Software (Investment)

In 2008, WPP was listed as a member of the American Benefits Council[7]

Further reading

  • David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising (New York: Crown 1983),
  • David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man (New York: Atheneum 1963)
  • David Ogilvy, Blood, Brains & Beer: the Autobiography of David Ogilvy (New York: Wiley 1997)
  • Richard Morgan, J Walter Takeover: From Divine Right to Common Stock (Homewood: Dow Jones-Irwin 1991).
  • Lester Wunderman, Being Direct (New York: Random 1996).
  • Karen Miller, The Voice of Business: Hill & Knowlton and postwar public relations (Chapel Hill: Uni of North Carolina Press 1998)
  • Susan Trento, Power House: Robert Keith Gray & the selling of access and influence in Washington (New York: St Martins 1992).

External links

Sharon Beder and Richard Gosden 'WPP: World Propaganda Power' PR Watch, Volume 8, No. 2


  1. WPP, Annual Report 2010 accessed 12th December 2011
  2. WPP, Letter to Share Owners accessed 12th December 2011
  3. WPP, Members of the Board of Directors April 2010, accessed 12th December 2011
  4. Graeme Wearden, Jill Treanor and Henry McDonald in Dublin, WPP poised to return to UK – but how many are following suit?, guardian.co.uk, Thursday 24 March 2011 20.50 GMT
  5. ActionAid [Addicted to tax havens], 11 October 2011, accessed same day
  6. WPP, Annual Report 2010 accessed 12th December 2011
  7. American Benefits Council Memberships Accessed 26th February 2008