Why Sorrell Should Stay Put and Show Gratitude; Wrong Move: Sir Martin Sorrell Wants to Relocate WPP's Domicile to Ireland

The Evening Standard (London, England), October 6, 2008 | Go to article overview

Why Sorrell Should Stay Put and Show Gratitude; Wrong Move: Sir Martin Sorrell Wants to Relocate WPP's Domicile to Ireland


Byline: CHRIS BLACKHURST

IF there is one lesson among the many to be gleaned from the past few weeks, it is surely that big business cannot behave as though there is one law for itself and another for the little folk.

You would also think, would you not, that nobody would be more acutely aware of that than someone who makes his living from advertising and communications.

Which is why I'm baffled by the decision of Sir Martin Sorrell to persist with relocating his WPP group's domicile to Ireland.

I'm more than puzzled; I'm angry.

When Sorrell first raised the possibility he may remove his company's profits from the clutches of the UK taxman I, like many others, was quick to condemn the Government, saying Gordon Brown had only got himself to blame for presiding over a taxation system that was too complex.

The threat of Sorrell to join others that had already indicated an intention to depart was not an idle one.

"Brown should be under no doubt: he needs to stop pretending and start listening properly before it is too late." Now Sorrell has followed through on his warning. But that doesn't mean he is right. I've long admired Sorrell, the creator of a global force in advertising, an industry champion.

This move, however, is not his finest.

Frankly, it sticks in the craw. Even the way it was announced, during the worst crisis we have faced in years, smacked of deliberate timing.

Previously, when Sorrell first made noises about going, on Radio 4, then in an interview with this newspaper, it was major news. The Prime Minister was on the ropes and the possibility of a corporate exodus, coming immediately after the non-domiciles fiasco and the row about capital gains reform, pointed to his being out of touch and in danger of jeopardising Britain's position as a major business centre. The Opposition, not surprisingly, was quick to pile in.

This time, there has scarcely been any fuss. But then the move was revealed on the day after the night before, when the Dow plunged more than 700 points. …

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