Mark Read and Andrew Scott were suddenly thrust into the spotlight Saturday night when WPP announced that CEO Martin Sorrell was stepping down amid an unspecified allegation. Read and Scott were named chief operating officers, reporting to WPP Chairman Roberto Quarta until a new CEO is appointed.
Both Read, CEO at Wunderman and WPP Digital, and Scott, WPP's corporate development director and chief operating officer for Europe, had been floated in past years as possible successors to WPP's iconic leader, but WPP always remained notoriously hush-hush about its potential future leadership.
Now Read will be responsible for clients, operating companies and people, while Scott will focus on financial and operational performance and "implementing the ongoing reorganization of the Group's portfolio," according to a client-facing Q&A issued by WPP.
But both are presumably contenders for the CEO spot, along with the external candidates that WPP promised it would consider in that Q&A. Here's what to know about Read and Scott:
As far back as a dozen years ago, Read was considered to be one of Sorrell's "right-hand men," and someone in whom Sorrell believed. Back then, he was chief executive of WPP.com, the agency holding company's umbrella for its digital and dot-com interests.
Read joined WPP right out of the University of Cambridge, first handling investor relations and business development at the parent company and then heading over to Ogilvy & Mather. He eventually left to work at consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton's entertainment and media practice before founding WebRewards, a consumer-affinity company that ultimately sold to Bertelsman. He rejoined WPP in 2002 with roles including CEO of WPP Digital and head of strategy for the holding company.
He joined WPP's board in 2005, but left it again in 2015 when he became global CEO of digital agency giant Wunderman. At the time, Sorrell remarked in a statement on Read's "wealth of knowledge in digital technology and its application to marketing services, as well as strong links with our new media partners."
Read has helped WPP navigate the digital world, says Avi Dan, a former managing partner at WPP's Berlin Cameron who now runs the consultancy Avidan Strategies.
"He really knows the company inside and out," Dan says, citing Read's board experience and other roles at WPP. Dan describes Read as "extremely intelligent," thoughtful and "very steady."
Read combines an intimate understanding of the company's inner workings and interdependencies with a global perspective, Dan says.
Jay Haines, founder of executive search firm Grace Blue, adds that Read "was always a natural successor when it came to Martin." He says Read is now a good candidate to fill the role: someone who understands the investor relations side but has also run a modern network successfully and has digital understanding. "He has a lot of what you would look for," he says.
Andrew Scott's previous role has been described as "Martin's chief deal-maker" by former GroupM Global Chief Digital Officer Rob Norman. Norman, who stepped down from his full-time role in November, says he got to know Scott around the time of WPP's acquisition of 24/7 Real Media; he also worked with Scott during the acquisition of Essence. Norman says he noticed Scott was not as "ice-cold" as you might imagine a deal-doer to be.
"He realized in people businesses there are inevitably some kind of emotional characteristics of getting deals done, because you're dealing with human beings," Norman says. Scott also understands the importance of getting people invested, getting them to buy in to a company during a deal "as opposed to selling out," Norman says.
Outside of WPP, Scott may have kept a fairly low profile. But at the center, "Andrew is a very well-known actor in the middle of the whole thing," Norman says.
Scott had been an executive at WPP for 14 years in 2013 when he was named chief operating officer for WPP Europe, tasked with working closely with businesses in the U.K. and Continental Europe (including Turkey and Russia), according to WPP's announcement at the time. He previously worked at management consulting firm L.E.K.
The region at the time represented 39 percent of WPP's revenue and was considered by Sorrell to be a "very important contributor" to the company's overall performance, Sorrell said then. He said Scott was tasked with working with leadership in the company's brands there to speed growth, improve collaboration and drive business performance. Scott reported to Sorrell in that role.
According to WPP, Scott is an engineering graduate with an MBA from INSEAD, originally an acronym for the graduate business school Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires.
WPP had been a regular presence at the annual Presidents Club Charity Dinner, but quickly distanced itself after the reports. Sorrell did not attended the most recent event, in January.
"WPP has traditionally sponsored a table at the Presidents Club dinner to support its fundraising for children's charities," a WPP spokesman said in a statement that month. "Neither the company nor our attendees were aware of the alleged incidents until informed of them by the Financial Times. WPP takes these reports very seriously and, while we will continue to support relevant charities, in light of the allegationswe are ending our association with the event."