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Sorrell’s departure, Wizard of Oz’s return, Commonwealth meeting

  • April 16, 2018
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Martin Sorrell’s departure after 33 years at the helm of the world’s largest ad business leaves WPP seeking new leadership at a pivotal time for the industry.

Sir Martin, who turned WPP into the biggest force in the advertising industry over more than three decades, quit after an investigation into his conduct (denied by Sir Martin). But he is free to start a new advertising venture because he has never had a non-compete agreement, say people briefed on the matter.

The recent struggles of WPP suggest the conglomerate model Sir Martin pioneered is under strain. Our columnist Andrew Hill is watching the share price on Monday. “Only on Monday morning, when markets open, will it be clear whether shareholders agree that an abrupt parting from the company Sir Martin said would “always be his baby” is in their interests,” he writes. (FT)

In the news

Situation Syria in the US
The Trump administration vowed on Sunday to impose more sanctions against Russia for supporting the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons. Our Moscow bureau chief writes that Mr Putin’s support for Mr Assad backs Russia into a dangerous corner. The Atlantic argues that the US-led strike on Syria at the weekend was “unserious but intended to relieve emotional pressure — and in many ways, worse than doing nothing at all”. The White House also rebuffed French President Emmanuel Macron’s claim that France convinced President Trump to stay in Syria long-term. (FT, Atlantic, Axios)

Situation Syria in the UK
Meanwhile, UK prime minister Theresa May will have to explain to parliament on Monday why she did not seek its consent before launching air strikes on Syria following mounting pressure from the opposition. It’s shaping up to be a tough week for Mrs May. The House of Lords is expected to vote for Britain to remain in an EU customs union this week, inflicting a damaging defeat on the Conservative government. (FT)

Return of the Wizard of Oz
Louis Bacon, the billionaire founder of Moore Capital, is giving his personal backing to his one-time protégé, Greg Coffey, once dubbed the “Wizard of Oz” in London trading circles. Mr Coffey is returning to the hedge fund industry after five years and the $2bn launch of Kirkoswald Capital is likely to be the largest in Europe this year. (FT)

Barclays ventures into new business lines
Barclays has created a new venture capital-style unit, called Barclays UK Ventures, that it hopes will add billions of pounds to its annual revenues by 2025. Barclays attracted the attention of activist investor Edward Bramson last month, making the drive to demonstrate new growth and business lines timely. (FT)

Make Zuckerberg accountable again
Investor pressure on Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and chief executive, is rising. Some are pushing for an independent chairman — taking over the title from Mr Zuckerberg — as well as three new independent directors with expertise in data and ethics. (FT)

Comey’s explosive interview
James Comey, the former FBI director, gave a televised interview on Sunday night ahead of the release of his memoir this week. He was damning of President Donald Trump, saying he “treats women like they’re pieces of meat” and may be compromised by the Russians. But Mr Comey’s media blitz comes with risks and has put some scrutiny on his own shortcomings. (FT, Politico, Vox)

The day ahead

IMF-World Bank meetings
Fears that the world’s two biggest economies — the US and China — are heading toward a trade war are set to dominate discussions at this week’s spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank. (FT)

Commonwealth meeting
The leaders of 52 Commonwealth countries are to meet in London and Windsor. Of particular note is the fact that Narendra Modi will become the first Indian prime minister in nine years to attend a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. British officials are keen to forge closer links with what is now the world’s fastest-growing major economy but many fear the bilateral relationship is moving backwards. (FT)

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s Week Ahead.

What we’re reading

Venezuela: the other humanitarian crisis
A generation ago, it was the wealthiest country in Latin America. Now, following the implosion of the economy, thousands of desperate migrants are fleeing into Colombia and Brazil daily. At the current rate, over 5 per cent of Venezuela’s population will depart this year. Our reporters head to the border towns of Villa del Rosario and Boa Vista to deliver a sobering long read. (FT)

The mobster who bought his son a hockey team
This is the story of a minor-league hockey team that ended up landing its owner in prison, by the great non-fiction writer Rich Cohen. (Atlantic)

Ease up the Ramaphoria
Relief at the end of the regime of Jacob Zuma, who is now in court faing corruption charges, has quickly morphed into swooning adulation for Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s new president. But the country is now in a parlous position, so much has gone wrong that it is difficult to know where Mr Ramaphosa should start. A long but worthy read. (Standpoint)

Never solved
The 1967 blaze at Cornell University killed nine, including members of a fast-track PhD program. No one was ever charged and half a century slid by, the case stubbornly dormant. But now an amateur investigator thinks he knows who started it. (NYT)

When partners go their own way, the band plays on
Fleetwood Mac fans are livid Lindsey Buckingham, the guitarist who recorded many tracks for 1977’s Rumours album, will not be part of the line-up for the next tour. But the FT’s Andrew Hill says he himself would favour the line-up — while neatly reminding us that bands are partnerships, like many law or consulting firms. (FT)

Video of the day

The week ahead
Daniel Garrahan previews some of the big stories the FT is watching in the week ahead, including the IMF and World Bank meetings in Washington, first-quarter results from Unilever and three of the big six US banks, and the end of an era in Cuba, as Raúl Castro steps down as president. (FT)


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