Over 33 years, Sir Martin Sorrell turned Wire and Plastic Products (WPP), a maker of shopping baskets, into an advertising company with a market value of £14bn and 200,000 employees. It is a great success story of British business. That Sorrel has resigned from WPP after a whistle-blower complaint concerning his personal conduct and use of company funds — the nature of which has not been revealed — may seem like a sorry dénouement. This is, however, a bigger story than just a CEO leaving amid accusations of misbehaviour. It involves seismic changes in the advertising industry, and big questions about the governance of companies that are closely identified with their founder/leaders. So far, the WPP board has shared few of the details with shareholders. This will have to change. It is hard to imagine that Sorrel would be leaving the company if it were leaping from strength to strength. But it is, instead, under acute pressure. The shares have lost more than a third of their value in ...

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