WPP: Some Rank Speculation on Who Will Succeed Martin Sorrell as CEO

Last Updated Jan 27, 2010 2:19 PM EST

Ogilvy & Mather global CEO Miles Young was tipped to succeed Martin Sorrell as CEO of WPP (WPPGY) at an IAA luncheon in London -- to Young's apparent embarrassment, according to a blogger who attended the shindig:
... to Miles' evident discomfort, he was introduced by CNN's Jonathan Davies as the man who is 'hotly tipped to be Martin Sorrell's successor.' It is not the first time I have heard this, and I doubt it will be the last. Sorrell is 65 in February and, already, there are questions about succession planning at WPP.
Sorrell is 64 years old and is already talking about succession at the company he built (now the world's largest ad agency), even though his age is a sensitive topic for him. A WPP investor who once wanted to attend an AGM to ask about Sorrell's succession was allegedly threatened with arrest, according to The Independent:
Mr Fiorilla had a series of other awkward questions lined up. These included: "Is it not time for Sir Martin Sorrell to finally designate a successor and give shareholders the possibility to know the name of his successor? Can we fix a date to decide this?"
So who is in the running to succeed Sorrell? Here's a tip sheet: Ogilvy's Miles Young: Why not? It's out there already.

Lord Stephen Carter: is still unemployed after he resigned as digital communications minister from the U.K.'s Labour government (unless you call sitting in the House of Lords "employed," which I don't.) He brings a sort of star power and snob appeal to the job.

Peter Minnium: Lowe Group's director of the Americas, is allegedly "prepping to exit" following Lowe's merger with Deutsch. I include him because he's a Brit with international experience who happens to be available for work right now. He's been through an integration or two -- which is how WPP grows its business -- and thus may have something to offer. But this is pure speculation on my part.

Mark Read: WPP's strategy director is already on the board of WPP and is thus perfectly placed to continue Sorrell's work, which at this point he knows intimately. As chief of WPP Digital he's also head of one of the fastest-growing areas of the ad biz. And he's only 42, which will make him look a like a bold young choice. Given that Sorrell has already said he wants an insider, Read must be a contender.

Bob Jeffrey: My colleague George Parker reminds me of the obvious: JWT CEO Jeffrey has steered his ship masterfully in the last few years (just don't mention the Chicago office). He is therefore an obvious contender.

Jim Heekin: The CEO of Grey Group has steered that hoary old moneymaker ever since Ed Meyer left the scene. Grey has gone a bit more digital under his watch (the print thing was becoming a bit of a drag, after all). Has the seniority and the relationship with big old packaged goods companies such as P&G.