WPP China country manager and GroupM CEO for China, Patrick Xu, has resigned after more than 10 years with the holding company.
Replacing Xu will be Rupert McPetrie, CEO of EssenceMediacom APAC, who has been appointed to lead GroupM China as CEO—in addition to his existing remit.
McPetrie will split Xu's prior responsibilities with Ogilvy's Chris Reitermann, who currently leads the agency in APAC and is based in Shanghai. Reitermann will now take on the additional role of president of WPP in China.
WPP employs over 6,000 people across its portfolio of creative, media, production, PR and design agencies in China, with GroupM considered one of the largest operating media groups in the country.
The news of Xu's resignation comes amidst the ongoing bribery case unfolding in Shanghai involving three former GroupM China executive team members. Rycan Di (ex-chief investment officer for GroupM China), Yao Lan (ex-head of digital buying) and Diana Hong (ex-general manager) were all detained by Shanghai's Economic Police Department in October last year on alleged charges of bribery and misconduct, and following a raid at the WPP office in Shanghai.
It's understood that during this incident, Xu was also questioned, but not detained. Though the exact nature of the charges is not confirmed, Campaign reported at the time in accordance with mulitple sources that the matter pertained to the alleged mismanagement of rebates.
Amidst the challenges, GroupM is also grappling with a demanding client landscape. Today, Campaign reported that longstanding clients, including Yum Brands, Swatch and Dyson are undergoing media reviews for their agency accounts with Mindshare and Wavemaker in China. Whilst the connection to the ongoing case above remains unclear, according to reliable sources, GroupM was not initially included in the invitation to re-pitch for these accounts. However when contacted, the Group dismissed these claims as "inaccurate."
Campaign also understands that clients and staff in China are in the midst of being made aware of the changes in leadership this morning.
With over 20 years of experience and well-immersed in the Chinese market, McPetrie began his journey with GroupM in 2015 as the CEO of MediaCom China, dedicating seven years to Shanghai. After a successful stint, his relocated to Hong Kong as his role expanded to regional CEO for Asia-Pacific for EssenceMediacom in 2022, following the merger of Essence and MediaComm. Under his new scope now, McPetrie will report directly to GroupM CEO Christian Juhl.
Reitermann, who is recognised as one of the region's most experienced leaders, joined Ogilvy China in 1996 and has been residing in mainland China for 24 years. Already CEO for APAC and China, in his new remit, Reitermann is tasked with consolidating talent and resources from WPP to serve clients more effectively, and facilitate collaboration between WPP's capabilities in China, as well as supporting agency leadership within the country. Reitermann will report into WPP global chief operating officer, Andrew Scott.
“China is one of the world’s most dynamic and important markets—in business, technology, and especially in advertising. I’m proud to have the opportunity to lead the GroupM team into its next era of growth and development in service of our clients," said McPetrie of his appointment.
“It’s a real privilege to represent WPP in a market as significant as China. I look forward to working closely with leaders across our agencies as we begin a new chapter for the company and continue to place our clients at the heart of everything we do," added Reitermann.