Today comes the news that Sir Martin Sorrell is back in the market and competing again – he has set up “S4 capital” to acquire companies. This comes just weeks after leaving WPP.
There is something smelly about this – Sir Martin, it emerges, has non-compete contractual terms that were not extended to employees of the group. The board and the chairman of WPP have questions to answer.
Sir Martin aggressively enforced the contracts of departing employees – the founders of Adam and Eve had to pay £750,000 when on gardening leave. When I resigned as CEO of red cell advertising I received a letter accusing me of breaking the terms of my contract and trying to steal a client ( Wales Tourism Board in fact). I was very surprised as this was a) not true and b) easily refuted. WPP withdrew the accusation. But it was indicative of the aggression of WPP’s employment lawyers – and it came from the top.
I think this what can happen to very successful people: they get so detached from normal folk that they no longer think that the normal rules apply to them. “Taxes are for the poor” said Leona Helmsley. Now it seems that non compete contracts are for the rank and file not the top people