Sir Martin Sorrell Ten Opinions

Ten opinions from the UK’s latest Unicorn leader Sir Martin Sorrell

Last week I sat down with Sir Martin Sorrell, who was at his buoyant and incisive best, for a new episode of Tyto’s podcast Without Borders – currently running in collaboration with the csuite podcast and its host Russell Goldsmith – as part of a series of interviews with European unicorn leaders.

The interview comes after S4 Capital’s impressive growth continued last week by achieving a £1bn unicorn valuation last week building on the $1bn valuation achieved in 2019. Sir Martin pulled no punches as he spoke his mind on a range of issues including unicorn valuations, Brexit, Trump, WPP, the limitations of earn-outs and the tech sectors need to be responsible. Here are ten opinions extracted from what Sir Martin had to say:

Sir Martin on if unicorn valuations matter

“A lot of the private unicorn valuations are pretty meaningless as they are extrapolations of minority funding.” S4 Capital’s unicorn valuation “has veracity because it is based on a market value.”

Sir Martin on S4 Capital’s European focus in Amsterdam

“Amsterdam is good for Brexit. It is one of, if not the European capital which is gaining most from Brexit… A significant number of companies are starting to locate their European headquarters there.”

Sir Martin on acquisitions

“We don’t make acquisitions we make mergers. We’re looking for people that want to buy into what we’re doing, that are philosophically aligned, and are not looking to sell out. If you want to sell, don’t come to us, go to Denso, WPP or Omnicom.”

Sir Martin on the failed holding company model of earnouts

“I was speaking to someone who worked at Dentsu and she said they [Dentsu] talk about unitary and one P&L but it is complete nonsense because everyone is focused on their individual piece. That is the problem with the holding companies. When you do earnouts people are just focused on their little piece of it.”

Sir Martin on President Trump

“He’s good for business. Whatever people say about him, he’s good for business. He reduces tax, he reduces regulation, he spends money on infrastructure, so America is going to become disproportionately more important.”

Sir Martin on communicating S4 Capital’s vision

“We’ve tried to simplify it.” “We live in the age of the two-second ad.” You need “very simple messages that resonate in a world which is 24/7.”

Sir Martin on management

“Good people are inherently difficult to manage or bring together and average people are easy to manage.”

Sir Martin on WPP’s decision to sell its minority stake in Globant

“The loss in value on that deal is $500m… half a billion dollars of value has been lost… It was criminally negligent.”

Sir Martin on the need for tech companies to take more responsibility

“All the regulators in Europe and in America on a state by state basis and on a federal basis are gunning for the tech companies because with size comes responsibility.”

Sir Martin’s advice for other leaders on communications

“When you take advice, the advice tends to be to err on the side of caution, keep your head down, don’t put your head above the parapet… You have to be responsive and authentic. Say what you feel.”

To listen to the full podcast episode, search for ‘Without Borders’ in your favourite podcast app or stream it on your device from our website. You can also find out more about previous episodes and please subscribe to make sure you never miss a future episode.