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Last Updated: Friday, 30 March 2007, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Faces of the week
Faces of the Week

Our regular look at some of the names which have made the news this week. Above are SIR MARTIN SORRELL (main picture), with LYNDSAY HAWKER, MORGAN TSVANGIRAI, FAYE TURNEY and TRACEY EMIN.


Libel trials do not get much juicier - a blog hate campaign, a doctored photo and general mudslinging, all played out against the glamorous background of one of the world's leading advertising agencies.

Little wonder then that the libel and privacy trial brought by Sir Martin Sorrell against Italian firm Fullsix Spa and two former executives, Marco Benatti and Marco Tinelli, generated a lot of column inches.

The British tycoon accused the pair of being behind a blog which described him and a female executive as "the mad dwarf and the nympho schizo".

Unfortunately for a news media busily sharpening pencils in anticipation of a long fight, this week Sir Martin abruptly withdrew his High Court libel action and accepted 120,000 in damages. Loose change for a man running a company valued at 7.8bn and, in settling early, he has angered his opponents who say he deliberately denied them their day in court.

Law students will also be disappointed that the case ended prematurely, as it was the first libel action in an English court to rely solely on evidence from blogs and e-mails.

The 'third Saatchi'

The case has turned the spotlight on a man who is probably little known to those who don't assiduously peruse the financial pages of the more serious newspapers.

Charles and Maurice Saatchi
The brothers Saatchi who took Sorrell on as Finance Director
Yet Sir Martin is one of Britain's most successful businessmen. Over the past 20 years, he has turned a small manufacturer of supermarket trolleys into one of the world's biggest advertising and PR companies.

He comes from a solid middle class background. From a minor public school he went on to read economics at Cambridge before obtaining an MBA at Harvard Business School.

He honed his financial skills in the early 1970s, working firstly for James Gulliver, the man who built the Fine Fare supermarket chain, and then for Mark McCormack, founder of the sports celebrity agency IMG.

In 1975 he joined Saatchi & Saatchi where his contribution as finance director led to his being called "the third brother".

He was responsible for designing the strategy known as the "earn out", whereby he would pay just a percentage of the value to buy a rival company with the promise of more cash in the future based on the profitability of the company after the take-over.

Inspiration and luck

Despite his success, he hankered to run his own operation and looked for a suitable publicly quoted company which he could use for further acquisitions.

Portrait of Sir Martin Sorrell from 1990
Sorrell began WPP as a supermarket trolley manufacturer
In 1985 he invested in a firm called Wire Plastic Products, a humble manufacturer of baskets and trolleys for use by supermarkets.

It was the beginning of an amazing period of expansion as Sir Martin set out on an audacious buying spree.

The bigger they were, it seemed, the harder they fell as Sir Martin snapped up some of the giants of the advertising business including a successful hostile take over of J Walter Thompson, a company 13 times bigger than WPP.

In just three years he had bought 18 companies and catapulted WPP into the premier league of advertising agencies. Asked for the secret of his success he claimed it was down to "10% perspiration, 10% aspiration and 80% luck".

Rapid expansion

It was however his talent for spotting underperforming companies and exploiting their potential that was the basis of his growth.

He became one of the great entrepreneurial successes of the Thatcher era but his empire almost collapsed under the huge costs involved in his fast programme of acquisitions.

But Sir Martin confounded the critics, successfully refinanced the company and consolidated its position throughout the 90s. It now employs 65,000 people in 106 countries and profits are still growing.

The spectacular growth has not come without a price. In 2005 he was forced to pay a 29m divorce settlement to his wife who told a court that her husband had "marginalised" and "dehumanised" her, "discarded" her from his affections and taken a mistress.

She also got a Georgian mansion worth 3.2m and two underground parking spaces at Harrods worth 200,000 at the time.

He has, naturally, made enemies along the way with criticisms of his ruthless pursuit of companies and a reported tendency to micro manage his businesses.

Typically Sir Martin sees the latter as a compliment with his oft-quoted view that the reason for the failure of the Saatchi's agency was that: "Maurice and Charles became too remote from the business". It's not a mistake that Sir Martin is likely to make.

Lyndsay Hawker

Japan is popular with young expatriate Britons because it is seen as a safe country in which to live. However, some may be questioning that view after the body of 22-year-old Lyndsay Hawker was found covered in sand in a bath at her apartment. Police are hunting a male Japanese student in connection with the murder. The killing comes as the trial continues in Japan of a businessman accused of killing British bar hostess Lucie Blackman seven years ago.

Morgan Tsvangirai

As the pressure builds on the Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, his main opponent has again been the target of the country's police. Morgan Tsvangirai, who was badly beaten by security forces earlier this month, was detained when police raided the headquarters of his party, the Movement for Democratic Change. Government sources said more arrests were likely in the coming days, of opposition figures and journalists authorities accuse of trying to incite a coup.

Faye Turney

The sight of Leading Seaman Faye Turney being forced to take part in an Iranian propaganda broadcast has already raised questions about women in the front line. However the young mother, one of 15 naval personnel held by the Iranians for, allegedly, straying into their territorial waters, was under no illusions about the dangers she might face in a combat role. In an interview shortly before she was captured she said she was fully aware that her job could put her in danger.

Tracey Emin

The sound you hear could well be Joshua Reynolds spinning in his grave at the news that Tracey Emin has been made a member of the Royal Academy of Arts. Emin - whose work has included her own unmade bed surrounded by used condoms, underwear and vodka bottles - will now be able to put the initials RA after her name and help run the Academy. She follows in the footsteps illustrious names such as Thomas Gainsborough and JMW Turner.

Written by BBC News Profiles Unit's Nick Serpell

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