Update, 3 September: WPP has just made Read's appointment official. See full statement below.
WPP will confirm Mark Read as its new chief executive next week, according to a source with knowledge of the search.
A WPP spokesman declined to comment ahead of a statement to the stock market, which is expected around September 4 when the group announces half-year results.
Ever since the abrupt and messy departure of former CEO Martin Sorrell in April, who was at the helm of the holding group for 32 years, Read has been seen as the front-runner for the chief executive role.
Read was promoted to joint chief operating officer of WPP from chief executive of Wunderman after Sorrell’s exit.
Earlier this week, Pivotal Research Senior Analyst Brian Wieser told Campaign: "Almost every investor would regard Mark Read as an excellent successor to Sorrell."
"Investors know who he is," Wieser explained, referring to Read’s three-year stint as global chief executive of Wunderman and decade on the WPP board as strategy director.
"If it’s not Mark Read, it’s got to be a spectacular choice that surprises people out of leftfield," Wieser said. "The bar is very high."
Read worked at WPP from 1989 to 1995 and rejoined in 2002. He was on the board from 2006 to 2015 when he stepped up to run Wunderman. He also worked at agencies Ogilvy & Mather and Hill & Knowlton in London.
Before joining WPP in 2002, he was a principal at consultancy Booz-Allen & Hamilton, working in media and marketing.
3 September statement from WPP:
WPP plc today announces the appointment of Mark Read as Chief Executive Officer and his appointment to the Board of WPP as an Executive Director with immediate effect.
Roberto Quarta, Chairman of WPP, said: “The Board carried out a rigorous selection process, assessing internal and external candidates. That process, alongside Mark’s wise and effective stewardship of the business in the last few months, left us with no doubt that he is the right leader for this company, and we are delighted to announce the Board’s unanimous decision to appoint him as Chief Executive Officer of WPP.
“Recognised for his leadership throughout the industry, he has an intimate understanding of the business, he enjoys very strong internal support, and he has earned the respect and endorsement of our clients with his constant focus on their needs. He has played a central role in many of WPP’s most successful investments and initiatives, and he has deep experience at board and operational level. Most recently, Mark led the transformation of Wunderman into one of the world’s top digital agencies, and he understands the importance of culture in creating successful organisations. In short, he is in every way a 21st-century CEO.
“WPP is a world leader in communications services. The priority for the Board and the task ahead for Mark and the new management team is to build on this position of strength, while pursuing a clear vision for change and value creation.”
Mark Read said: “WPP is a great company with exceptional people and strong relationships with clients who place a high value on our work. Few organisations have our global reach – 130,000 people delivering results for clients in 112 different countries. Fewer still have our powerful combination of creativity and expertise in technology and data.
“Our industry is going through a period of structural change, not structural decline, and if we embrace that change we can look ahead to an exciting and successful future. Our mission now is to release the full potential that exists within the company for the benefit of our clients, to accelerate our transformation and simplify our offering, and to position WPP for stronger growth.
“To achieve that we need to foster a culture that attracts the best and brightest: inclusive, respectful, collaborative, diverse. What makes our company special is its people, and I am very proud to have been given the chance to build a new WPP with them.”
Roberto Quarta has resumed his role as Non-Executive Chairman on the appointment of Mark Read as Chief Executive Officer.
Andrew Scott will continue in his role as Chief Operating Officer of WPP on a permanent basis as a key member of the senior management team. The Board would like to thank him for his efforts, alongside Mark and the rest of the executive team, during a period of significant change for WPP.
Remuneration Mark Read will be paid in accordance with the Compensation Policy approved by share owners on 7 June 2017, as set out in the 2016 Annual Report.
- Annual Salary of £975,000.
- Annual Bonus of up to 250% of salary with mandatory deferral of at least 40% of bonus into shares deferred for a two-year period.
- LTIP award of 350% of salary. Performance will be measured over a five-year period using measures in line with our Compensation Policy.
- A cash allowance of 20% of salary, less employers’ national insurance, in lieu of pension.
- A benefits allowance of £35,000 per annum to cover health, risk and other benefits.
His contract of employment contains restrictive covenants including an industry non-compete, a non-deal with clients and a non-poach and non-employ of key WPP individuals.