Gustavo Martinez out at WPP two years after Johnson lawsuit

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Gustavo Martinez poses for a photo during an interview in 2016.
Gustavo Martinez poses for a photo during an interview in 2016. Credit: Priyanka Parashar/Mint via Getty Images

Gustavo Martinez has parted ways with WPP, two months after the world's largest agency holding company settled a sexual harassment lawsuit against him and the company and two years after it was first filed.

The suit, brought by former JWT chief communications officer Erin Johnson, had alleged racist, sexist and anti-Semitic comments from Martinez, then the global CEO of JWT.

"Gustavo Martinez and WPP have agreed it is in the best interests of both parties for him to pursue his career outside the group," WPP said in a statement.

A week after Johnson's lawsuit, Martinez resigned from JWT "by mutual agreement" from his role and was succeeded by Tamara Ingram.

Martinez remained employed by WPP working on "Spanish projects," the holding company previously told Ad Age. According to his LinkedIn, he became a "country representative" for WPP in Spain in January 2017.

Asked for comment on Martinez' departure, Johnson texted Ad Age a GIF of a sun setting.

Campaign U.K. first reported the news of Martinez' departure earlier Thursday.

The 2016 lawsuit said Martinez made extremely disparaging and racist comments to employees and the media, grabbed Johnson by the throat and by the back of the neck and asked other employees leave the room so that he and Ms. Johnson could talk about "the sex." It also claims that Mr. Martinez said, in the presence of other people, "Come here [Johnson], so I can rape you in the bathroom."

The case settled in April, news that hit the day after WPP announced that CEO Martin Sorrell was being investigated for personal misconduct. Johnson resigned after the case was settled, effective immediately.

"The past few years have been challenging to say the least," Johnson said in a statement at the time, "and I am grateful for the love and encouragement from family, friends and those of you in the industry who spoke up and offered support. Thank you. ... I hope that my personal experience will encourage others to speak up and follow their convictions. Moving forward, I wish Tam and the JWT team success."

The lawsuit sparked an uproar in the ad industry, on-stage discussions at the 4A's annual meeting and Cannes Lions festival and internal initiatives at agencies and other companies. Many other allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct in the industry followed, leading to numerous departures of big-name creatives from their agencies.

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