Pity poor Martin Sorrell. Having pushed through a $95 million pay package for himself that depends on the performance of WPP stock, despite resistance from executive pay watchdogs, he now finds that stock sinking. It's lost about 5 percent since Aug. 5 among worries that the network is carrying too much debt.This puts Sorrell in an impossible position: he can cure his debt problems by lowering the price of WPP stock further. If he doesn't the stock will sink anyway because of the debt overhang. Either way, that $95 million payout for outperforming his peers becomes ever more unlikely.
As BNET noted in April and on Aug. 12, WPP in Q1 2009 doubled its YTD net debt to Â£3.4 billion. Another Â£176 million is due this year and then a massive Â£850 million lump is due in 2010.
The FT put some flesh on that Friday. The article notes that one way for Sorrell to get rid of the debt would be to sell more stock:
A Â£500m placing, while unlikely, would dilute existing shareholders by about 7 per cent, UBS said.Diluting your stock, of course, drives the price down. And driving down the stock cuts Sorrell's pay. But does he have a choice? Perhaps not:
Morgan Stanley agreed that WPP is a "potential candidate to rebalance leverage with equity". It forecasts WPP's net debt to reach three times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation in 2010, double what its analysts say is the "optimal" gearing for an agency.
"Agencies hold client money as part of doing business, so clients might become jittery if they felt their agency's financial rating was under pressure," said Patrick Kirby, analyst at Deutsche Bank.Don't count Sorrell out. He has several years to get that stock back into a position to make him a gazillionaire.
- See previous coverage of WPP:
- Did You Check Out WPP's Line of Bath and Kitchen Products?
- Wall Street Downgrades WPP on Debt Fears; Has Sorrell Reached His Credit Limit?
- Citi Cuts WPP to "Sell"; Sorrell Defends "Suicide Pact" on Pay; Attacks Obama on Taxes
- Sorrell's Comments on Procurement Reveal Opacity of Agency Billing Practices
- WPP: Sorrell Sees No New Client Dollars; Layoffs Possible in Europe; Zimbabwe Eyes an Opportunity
- Could WPP Chief Sorrell's Successor Be Lord Stephen Carter?
- WPP Stock Down 11% as CEO Sorrell Gets $95 Mil. Pay Package. Coincidence?
- At WPP, Sorrell's $95 Mil. Pay Package Gathers More Foes -- But Passes Anyway
- WPP's Sorrell Wants $95 Million Pay Package; Sparks Protest at "Unnecessarily Complex" Scheme
- WPP's Sorrell Dusts Off Latest Wacky Recovery Metaphor: "An Italic L, Flipping Up"
- WPP Q1: Debt Doubles; "It's All Lehman Brothers' Fault"