Sir Martin Sorrell fires back at Singo saying he should have stuck with STW

Sorrell says Singo and Tate rewriting history

Sorrell says Singo and Tate are “rewriting history”

WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell has returned fire after former Australian business partner John Singleton accused him of not caring enough about the businesses operations in  Australia when the two teamed up to rescue J Walter Thompson, accusing him of “rewriting history”.

Speaking after the historic merger, where WPP and STW Group was given the go-ahead by shareholders this week, Singleton told Mumbrella that with the help of his righthand man, Russell Tate, STW had rescued the JWT business, only for WPP to “un-rescue it” with the imposition of a “crook” management contract.

Singleton, who sold his final stake in STW a decade ago, said: “they fucked it”.

Tate told Mumbrella that the actual merger of the businesses may have been more effective when STW took a 49% stake in JWT in the early 2000s.

“[It] seems everyone wants to re-write history!” Sorrell told Mumbrella.

“Both John and Russell did a great job and it’s a pity they didn’t stick at it.”

While speculation about a takeover of STW by WPP has been a constant theme in the industry since the two groups came together to jointly run the Australian operations of Ogilvy & Mather in 1997, Sorrell said he was never in a rush to make a move, saying it would only ever happen when the timing was right.

Responding to the suggestion it should have happened when the deal over JWT was struck, he said: “We try to play the long game”.

The market has responded positively to the merger which will create a newly-branded holding company, WPP AUNZ, with shares trading at a near 30% premium compared with when Mumbrella broke the news of the deal in December, up from $.725 cents at the time of the trading halt to $0.96 yesterday.

Trading in STW shares was suspended minutes after Mumbrella approached WPP to confirm details of the impending merger, with the company citing a breach of confidentiality. Three days later STW confirmed the details of Mumbrella’s reports.

However, the STW share price remains far below its historic high in early 2002, when it traded at $4.49, three months after the deal with WPP to take the stake in JWT.

The shares hit an historic low of $0.34 in 2009 and were trading at $0.96 at close yesterday.

Simon Canning


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