The other side of Sir Martin Sorrell

It’s always difficult interviewing CEOs. They tell you only what they want to tell you, not what you want to hear. They’re limited by the laws and regulations of the stock markets, of company affairs, boards and so on. Not surprisingly, the interviews often end up boring readers. This one’s different; Sir Martin talks to Campaign India on everything except advertising. And the superscoop? Where did he get his ‘family’ name from?

The other side of Sir Martin Sorrell
It’s always difficult interviewing CEOs. They tell you only what they want to tell you, not what you want to hear. They’re limited by the laws and regulations of the stock markets, of company affairs, boards and so on. Not surprisingly, the interviews often end up boring readers. This one’s different; Sir Martin talks to Campaign India on everything except advertising. And the superscoop? Where did he get his ‘family’ name from? Read on.
 
What kind of books do you read? 

"I now carry around a Kindle. When I went away on a holiday, I took the top 25 fiction and 25 non–fiction books, recommended by The New York Times. Although I didn’t read all 50 books, I downloaded that list, and read several of those books. Among them were a few of Jim Patterson’s books.

The Kindle is wonderful. I don’t actually do it, but one can download newspapers on it. It could potentially displace the BlackBerry.

What I generally tend to do is read business books. On my previous holiday, I read the book on Warren Buffett, The Snowball; the book by Michael Wolff on Rupert Murdoch. A lot of people think of Buffett as being a cold calculating investor. He shares a lot of the attributes of Rupert Murdoch.I would tend to read books on the collapse of a label, books that cheer you up rather than philosophy. I tend to read stuff that relates to the work that we do. Charlie Saatchi has come out with a book My name is Charles Saatchi and I am an Artoholic and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I would tend to read that sort of stuff."

What is your favourite book?


"My favourite book is actually Sorrell and Son, written by a man called Warwick Deeping. It’s a book that my father found. In fact, Sorrell is not a family name, that’s a deep dark secret. My paternal grandparents came from Russia and my mother’s grandparents came from Poland and Romania. My father’s name was not Sorrell. As there was a very significant degree of anti-semitism in the UK in the early 20th century, the family name was changed and he took the name from the book that he saw in a store window."

What kind of music do you listen to?


"Not that much. It tends to be a sort of mixture of classical and modern. I have my Apple iPod but I don’t use it. I probably have about 400 to 450 songs on it. I used it at the very beginning. When I was in my early twenties, I collected a lot of jazz. My favourite tune is a Chet Baker- Gerry Mulligan LP called My Funny Valentine.

There is a wonderful track of My Funny Valentine. Chet played the trumpet in a way that is lyrical.

There was a jazz shop on Charing Cross Road, called Doug Dobells ( which still exists) Whenever I had any money, I would buy blue note LPs. I still have that collection. It is probably worth a fortune."

What films do you watch? TV? Other media?


"I love films. If you said to me, what are my favourite films: one would be De Niro’s Raging Bull. The other one would be On the Waterfront. I would probably have 250 to 300 films in my collection. I inevitably watch films on the plane. I usually carry a portable DVD player with me, I watch Mad Men on it. I like it, though it wasn’t quite my era. But it’s reminiscent of the White anglo-saxon culture that existed. The anti-feminist, male dominated, three Martini lunch ad executive. I like TV, but there is no appointment viewing."

What sports do you watch?


"I love cricket. I play cricket every month and I watch it incessantly. We recently played on what must be the nicest ground in the UK; Wormsley. The grounds were made by Paul Getty, an American. The pavilion is thatched, the score board is thatched. The ground is almost naturally bowl shaped. You hit a four and it rolls up the bank and rolls back. You can’t see a house around, except for an ugly telephone pole. They have sheep and cows on all the hills. The ground was laid down by the Lords’ groundsmen and the Oval’s groundsmen, so it’s a very good wicket."

 
Who would you go to watch?
"It’s a terrible thing to say and makes me sound like a real old fart, but it’s not like it used to be. My favourite opening fast bowler for England is Fred Trueman. Leonard Hutton was an idol. Geoffrey Boycott was a demi-idol.

In the current lot, I would say Shane Warne. Ponting, Lara. Tendulkar and Dravid; they are great players."

What media do you consume now?



"My media habits have changed, I used to read voraciously the weeklies and fortnightlies. So I would read Fortune and BusinessWeek. I watch CNBC and Bloomberg."

What car do you drive?



"I get driven around in a Land Rover. I don’t enjoy driving as much. I would rather have the privilege of being driven around or walk. I have the Mercedes Benz, which I Ieft Saatchi with; its a 500 SL convertible, 1985. It sits in my garage, it’s done 12000 miles and is probably worth more money today than it cost back then. No Harley Davidson in my garage. My wife has a red Vespa, she insists on driving me around in New York on the Vespa."

 

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3 October 2014