WPP in talks to buy FT's London HQ in £90m-plus deal

One Southwark Bridge could become ad group’s head office in break from Sorrell era

WPP is in advanced talks to buy the Financial Times’s London headquarters for more than £90m in another significant break from the Sir Martin Sorrell era.

The media and advertising group is understood to be close to striking a deal for the building, as new its chief executive, Mark Read, continues to ring the changes after the company founder’s abrupt resignation in April. The FT is due to vacate the building next year, to return to its previous offices at Bracken House near St Paul’s Cathedral.

It is unclear which parts of the sprawling WPP business may be moved to the One Southwark Bridge location, but it could well become the company’s new UK headquarters.

In August, WPP relinquished the lease on its Mayfair headquarters, which Sorrell used from the late 1980s to mastermind the company’s growth into the world’s largest marketing services group.

The mews house, which housed about 30 of WPP’s 200 core UK staff, is close to Shepherd Market, where Sorrell is alleged to have visited a sex worker, an allegation he strenuously denies. Relinquishing the lease was a symbolic decision by Read while he was jointly running WPP on an interim basis; he was confirmed as chief executive in September.

WPP’s head office functions are being moved into two locations, one near the Financial Times building and the other in Sea Containers House, on the South Bank, where the company already has advertising businesses.

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At the time of moving out of Mayfair, Read said: “We are reviewing our working environment to make it fit for purpose and ready for our new requirements. And, specifically, to create a more modern and attractive office that is better suited to more collaborative ways of working.”

If the deal, first reported by Property Week, is agreed, it would be several years before any WPP operations moved into the Southwark building. The offices are too big for just its head office staff, so they could also house one or more of its agency groups.

Pearson, which sold the FT to Japanese media group Nikkei for £844m in 2015, originally kept hold of the building but decided to put it up for sale in May. It is also exploring a sale of its flagship London premises on the Strand. It was initially reported that Pearson was hoping One Southwark Bridge would fetch more than £100m. WPP and Pearson declined to comment.

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Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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