Martin Sorrell and why age is just a number

Golf and gardening were never really going to cut it, were they?

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 30 May 2018

Well that didn’t take long. Barely weeks after being ousted from WPP, advertising big shot Martin Sorrell is taking his first step back into the world of business. He’s set to buy 75% of a shell company, Derriston Capital, transforming it into a cutting edge, data and tech-led marketing firm to be renamed S4 Capital.

The plan has delicious echoes of his 1985 purchase of WPP (Wire and Plastic Products, as was). And we all know how that turned out. Sorrell created an empire on vision and sharp-eyed deal making alone.

All eyes are on what spurned Sorrell will do next, unencumbered as he is by a non-compete clause in his old WPP contract. Dare we wonder if he can he do it again?

What’s remarkable here is that Sorrell is 73 years old. He’s plunging himself back into the role of a disruptive entrepreneur, after spending decades running a huge, listed corporation. It’s hard to overstate how big a deal that is. 

Our society is steeped in ageism. It can hobble the prospects and blunt the ambitions of people barely in their 50s, let alone their 70s. So it’s heartening not to hear commentators dismissing Sorrell as a has-been, or a ghost of his former self. The industry fears and admires him still, with good reason. It would be a foolish thing indeed to assume his formidable powers have diminished with age.

It’s a shame that one has to be a multimillionaire pillar of the global elite, immaculately networked, to be afforded such courtesy. As society ages, our collective prosperity will depend on harnessing the talents and experience of older people: it’s just maths.

With that in mind, MT for one hopes that Sorrell continues to make waves. He could be a much-needed role model for baby boomers who refuse to be told that their best days are behind them.

Image credit: World Economic Forum/Wikimedia Commons

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