Boardroom doyen Quarta appointed chairman at WPP alongside chief executive Sorrell

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City veteran Roberto Quarta, the son of a tailor from northern Italy, was reputedly known as “Bob the Knife” during his earlier days running engineering group BTR.

Quarta has little experience of advertising — like departing WPP chairman Philip Lader, the former US ambassador to London — but plenty of boardroom know-how.

He is already chairman of FTSE 100 global medical technology company Smith & Nephew and today resigned from another chairmanship — of  FTSE 250 engineering business IMI — to make time for his new role at WPP.

Sorrell is the longest-serving chief executive of a FTSE 100 company after taking the helm in 1986 and will turn 70 in February.

He has defied repeated shareholder revolts over his pay, which hit  £30 million last year as long-term bonuses paid off, but WPP has carried out a major reshuffle of its board in the last two years.

According to a Management Today profile of Quarta, “he can, like many Italian men, give you a curious top-to-toe glance which can suddenly make your suit seem surprisingly ill-fitting”.

Lader earned £450,000 last year  at WPP.

Insiders said Quarta, who has joint Italian and US nationalities and a reputation for turning around businesses, should command Sorrell’s respect.

WPP faced a battle to recruit a chairman in a year-long search. BT’s Sir Mike Rake was reportedly sounded out but withdrew from the race.

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December 17, 2014 |
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