Martin Sorrell

Not Your Average Mad Man

martin sorrell
Martin Sorrell is Europe's best-paid chief executive.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    As head of WPP, Martin Sorrell is widely credited with setting the modern course of advertising and media industries.

  • Facts


    • Mr. Sorrell worked for Saatchi and Saatchi before setting up WPP in 1985.
    • The company has since acquired advertising giants JWT, Ogilvy and Grey. It also owns successful media investor GroupM.
    • Mr. Sorrell has been criticized over his huge pay package of $65 million (€60 million).
  • Audio


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Sir Martin Sorrell is one of Britain’s most well-known businessmen. After investing in the obscure wire-making company WPP in 1985, he turned it into on of the world’s biggest advertising and media companies by buying agencies such as JWT, Ogilvy and Grey. It also owns the highly successful media investor GroupM.

The company employs 180,000 people in 112 countries and has revenues of more than $18 billion and income of about $2.3 billion.


Handelsblatt: Your pay has been the subject of many headlines recently. You earned €60 million ($65 million) last year and were the best paid CEO in Europe. Can you understand people who criticize your pay?

Sir Martin Sorrell: You need to have a closer look what that is composed of. Ten percent is fixed pay, the other 90 percent is paid in shares, which I keep. If this is a crime – mea culpa. To start a business with two people 30 years ago and now to have 180,000 people by now in 112 countries. If the company succeeds, I succeed. If the company fails, I fail. That’s the key.

So you deserve to be the best paid CEO in Europe?

No. What I am saying is: If you went back and looked at what we agreed, we did what we agreed on. And let’s get clear about it: Those gains get taxed and a significant proportion goes into a foundation.

In the light of the debate about economic inequality and Thomas Piketty’s book about ever-greater levels of inequality in society, is there a reason to change the current status quo because the results are so extreme?

The case for equal distribution is not proved one way or another. The fundamental point here is pay for performance. And if you perform, you should be incentivised to perform.

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