London (AFP) – British advertising giant WPP on Wednesday revealed it had launched an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct by its chief executive Martin Sorrell, reportedly of a financial and personal nature.
The statement came after The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that WPP was looking at whether Sorrell “misused company assets” alongside “allegations of improper personal behaviour”.
Sorrell, 73, denied any wrongdoing but said the company that he founded over three decades ago had no choice but to investigate an allegation of “financial impropriety” made against him.
The advertiser said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange: “The board of WPP has appointed independent counsel to conduct an investigation in response to an allegation of personal misconduct against Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive officer of WPP.
“The investigation is ongoing. The allegations do not involve amounts which are material to WPP,” it added.
Sorrell said in a separate statement: “Reports in the media have stated that WPP is investigating an allegation of financial impropriety by me, specifically as to the use of company funds.
“This allegation is being investigated by a law firm. I reject the allegation unreservedly but recognise that the company has to investigate it.
“I understand that this process will be completed shortly.”
Sorrell added: “As a significant share owner, my commitment to the company, which I founded over thirty years ago, remains absolute.”
News of the probe sent WPP’s share price sliding 2.3 percent in early deals on London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index.
Long-serving Sorrell has made headlines in recent years regarding his sizeable pay, at a time when traditional advertising groups struggle against fierce competition from the likes of Google and Facebook.
Sorrell received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 2000.