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Building from scratch a marketing services giant by acquisition: Case study and interview with Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief Executive of WPP

Abby Ghobadian (Henley Business School, Henley‐on‐Thames, UK)
Nicholas O'Regan (University of the West of England, Bristol, UK)

Journal of Strategy and Management

ISSN: 1755-425X

Article publication date: 9 August 2011

Abstract

Purpose

Mergers and acquisitions are among the most intensely used strategic decisions. Yet research by both academics and consulting groups suggests that many mergers and acquisitions fail to add value. On the other hand there are many companies that successfully use mergers and acquisition to grow and add shareholder value. One such company is WPP. The aim of this paper is to explore why WPP has been successful in its acquisition strategy while so many other companies fail.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper draws on documentary evidence and a semi‐structured interview with Sir Martin Sorrell – Chief Executive and founder of WPP.

Research limitations/implications

The case study offers a unique insight into thinking of a successful acquirer and sheds light on how mergers and acquisitions are managed by WPP. However, because of its design the findings are not generalisable.

Originality/value

This case study sheds light on how mergers and acquisitions can be used to create a £9 billion company from a standing start. Furthermore, very few case studies offer insight into the thinking of entrepreneurial Chief Executives who established the business, grew it to become the largest and most profitable marketing services company in the world and engineered close to 300 acquisitions.

Keywords

Citation

Ghobadian, A. and O'Regan, N. (2011), "Building from scratch a marketing services giant by acquisition: Case study and interview with Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief Executive of WPP", Journal of Strategy and Management, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 289-300. https://doi.org/10.1108/17554251111152298

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited