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Johnny Hornby: Martin Sorrell must stop whining about new WPP


Advertising chief Johnny Hornby on Monday called on Sir Martin Sorrell to “mind his own business” and end his prolonged attack on his former employer WPP.

Sorrell has criticised new WPP chief Mark Read’s strategy since he stood down amid denied allegations he used company cash to pay for prostitutes.

Hornby told the Standard: “Martin needs to literally mind his own business. He is clever and talented but his constant carping about Mark Read and [chief operating officer] Andrew Scott is verging on unacceptable.” Hornby claimed the pair had shown “loyalty” to Sorrell and Read had been the architect of digital deals at WPP similar to those now done by Sorrell’s new venture, S4 Capital.

Hornby’s agency, The & Partnership Group, which is 49%-owned by WPP, saw revenues of £602 million — up 33.9% — in 2018 and pre-tax profits grew 54% to £12.3 million. The figures were boosted by new work for the likes of Toyota, and Regions Financial in the US.

Hornby said the results were a vindication of his business model — which sees 70% of his workforce based at clients’ offices to speed up processes, share data and study marketing’s effectiveness. This strategy put him at loggerheads with Sorrell and saw the pair refuse to share a boardroom in the latter’s last years at WPP.

Hornby said: “More and more large international organisations are needing to be more digital, more agile and have effectively a ‘marketing newsroom’ in-house.”

Last week, lacklustre numbers from France’s Publicis spooked investors in so-called “old-economy ad groups”, sending shares in rivals, including WPP, spiralling.

“What Publicis and the other big holding companies are trying to do is turn around large, siloed organisations. It’s like trying to turn around a super-tanker,” added Hornby.

Sorrell declined to comment.