Shares in ad giant WPP fall amid breakup speculation

FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017 file photo, Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, visits the New York Stock Exchange in New York. Martin Sorrell is stepping down as chief executive of WPP, the world's largest advertising agency, following allegations of personal misconduct. Sorrell, who led WPP for the past 33 years, had been accused of misuse of company assets. He resigned in the evening of Saturday, April 14, 2018 after the investigation concluded. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, file)

LONDON — Shares in WPP, the world's biggest advertising company, have fallen as much as 5.6 percent amid speculation it will be broken up after the resignation of CEO Martin Sorrell.

Sorrell, who built WPP into a conglomerate during his 33 years at the helm, stepped down after an investigation into allegations he misused company assets. He denies any wrongdoing.

Liberum analyst Ian Whittaker says Sorrell was the "glue that bound much of WPP together," and the company may now look to sell its market research and PR divisions. He says there'll also be speculation about whether WPP will sell stakes in associated businesses, as it did with its ownership in Japanese ad firm Asastu-DK.

The resignation Saturday of WPP's 73-year-old founder comes as the advertising industry faces pressure from online marketing.

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