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GroupM's Irwin Gotlieb retires as global chairman, becomes advisor to WPP

By Published on .

Irwin Gotlieb speaking during the ET Global Business Summit in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018.
Irwin Gotlieb speaking during the ET Global Business Summit in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. Credit: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg

Irwin Gotlieb, a powerful force in the media agency industry whom Fortune once called "the $59 billion man," is leaving his role as global chairman of GroupM, the company said Friday morning. He will become a senior advisor to GroupM parent WPP.

In a statement, Kelly Clark, GroupM's global CEO since 2016, called Gotlieb a "one-of-a-kind visionary" and said his mark on on the media-agency conglomerate and the entire media business is "indelible." Clark will continue to lead the company in his current role. WPP does not plan to fill the chairman post he is vacating.

Gotlieb established the first spin-out of a standalone media shop in 1993 with the separation of what would become MediaVest from DMB&B before joining WPP in 1999 as Mindshare's first global CEO. He became GroupM's first global CEO when it was founded in 2003.

"I'm fortunate for the many opportunities this industry has afforded me, and I enter this new chapter with tremendous gratitude and optimism," Gotlieb said in a statement, also thanking WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell for his support over the years. Sorrell this week has been embroiled in controversy over an undisclosed allegation of personal misconduct.

Gotlieb's departure follows five months after the retirement of another major figure at GroupM, Rob Norman, a company veteran who stepped down as chief digital officer role last November.

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