The second wife of Britain’s best-known advertising tycoon Sir Martin Sorrell has revealed she is seeking a divorce after 12 years of marriage – almost three years after he was accused of visiting a Mayfair brothel.
Sir Martin, who is worth an estimated £368million, married Cristiana Falcone in 2008 and the couple had a daughter eight years later.
Lady Sorrell, who is almost three decades Sir Martin’s junior, could now become one of Britain’s richest women after splitting from the 75-year-old.
The couple lived together in a £25million central London mansion and Sir Martin also has an apartment in New York.
In 2005 the media mogul paid a then record divorce settlement of £29million to his first wife Lady Sandra after 33 years of marriage.
Three years later he married Italian economist Cristiana, who is also set for a giant settlement with her estranged husband saying previously she made a ‘significant contribution’ to his success and wealth over the past 12 years.
Their divorce comes two years after Sir Martin quit advertising giant WPP amid allegations of misconduct and bullying of staff as well as claims the firm had been investigating whether Sir Martin had spent £300 of company money on a Mayfair prostitute.
Sir Martin Sorrell, who is worth an estimated £368million, married Cristiana Falcone in 2008 (pictured together in 2009)
The couple lived together at this central London mansion and also have a property in New York
In 2005 he paid a then record divorce settlement of £29 million to his wife of 33 years, Lady Sandra (pictured). He went on to marry economist Cristiana Falcone in 2008
Two colleagues are said to have witnessed their boss going into a flat in Mayfair’s red light district. Sir Martin strenuously denied the claims.
In a statement released late last night, Lady Sorrell said: ‘My husband and I have separated and I am seeking a divorce to end our marriage.’
The Italian, who is on the board of media conglomerate Viacom and previously worked at the World Economic Forum, added: ‘From here on, my priority will be the interests of my daughter, and I request that the media respect my and my family’s privacy.’
In interviews after the red-light district scandal Mr Sorrell ‘strenuously’ denied claims he used company cash to pay for a prostitute – and paid tribute to his wife Cristiana.
He also rubbished any suggestion of marital problems.
He told the Mail on Sunday: ‘That’s not a question I’m going to dignify with an answer. Anybody who really knows me, knows the allegation and surrounding innuendo were fabricated.’
Sir Martin was knighted in 2000 – when he earned his 21st June nickname from jealous industry peers – for his incredible rise in the business world. But all was not well in his personal life.
Sir Martin has three sons from his first marriage to American-born Sandra Finestone. The couple split in 2003 after 33 years.
Miss Finestone blamed Sir Martin’s obsession with work, claiming she felt ‘marginalised’ and ‘dehumanised’.
She received a settlement worth £30million – then the biggest in British legal history. Court documents revealed that the deal included a £3.25million Georgian townhouse and two Harrods underground car parking spaces worth £200,000,
Two WPP staff drinking in central London claimed they saw Sir Martin Sorrell entering the white door of 50a Shepherd Market (pictured), which was then a brothel next to a bookies in Mayfair
The brothel in Mayfair, central London had the sign ‘beautiful young lady, please knock’ (left) on the door (right)
Sir Martin married his second wife Cristiana, an Italian economist, in 2008. He provoked rage among WPP investors a couple of years later when it emerged that the company was paying for her travel expenses.
Sorrell denied both sleeping with a prostitute and misusing company funds – he also said the WPP scandal did not cause any marital problems with his second wife Lady Cristiana Sorrell – but they are now divorcing
The controversy led to one of many run-ins between him and WPP’s shareholders, who he told: ‘My wife has made and continues to make a significant contribution to what I do. What she does is extremely significant.’ But he later agreed to start paying her expenses personally’.
Before he left WPP Sir Martin was accused by two WPP employees of visiting a Mayfair brothel – but he furiously denied claims it was him or that he used company cash to pay for a prostitute.
The colleagues were having a drink on June 7 2017 when they claim they saw the advertising mogul entering 50a Shepherd Market – then a den of iniquity in one of London’s red light districts.
The friends, who haven’t been named, are also said to have taken a photo of the building and this would later be used during the WPP misconduct probe, the Financial Times reported.
Sir Martin left WPP, the company he founded more than 30 years ago, in April 2018 following allegations of personal misconduct. WPP carried out an inquiry into allegations that he misused company funds, but the details of the investigation were never disclosed.
The colleagues who claim they saw Sir Martin on Shepherd Market stayed quiet until the millionaire’s long-serving chauffeur was sacked suddenly in October – and then one went to bosses with the alleged brothel sighting.
The advertising guru has denied claims he paid for a prostitute with company cash while at the helm of WPP.
His six executive assistants in the US and the UK said they were paid at least £80,000-a-year but called it ‘combat pay’.
One claimed: ‘He was brutal and inhuman in how he dealt with his assistants,” said one former executive. He would say “you’re f****** idiots, what’s f****** wrong with you?’
Others said he regularly swore at junior staff, calling a worker approaching retirement a ‘pudding’ and others ‘bozos’.
Sir Martin strongly denied the claims and insiders said he was ‘pretty cheesed off’ about the claim.
A friend told The Times today: ‘He denies the allegation that he saw a prostitute. He understands that the allegation was made by a disgruntled employee. If you run a business with 200,000 employees for 30 years, some will fall out with you’.
Sir Martin transformed WPP from a tiny manufacturer of shopping baskets into one of the world’s most powerful marketing agencies, worth more than £11billion. After quitting, he kept his entitlement to shares worth tens of millions of pounds – and his contract also allowed him to launch a rival immediately.
He revealed just six weeks after leaving WPP that he was setting up S4 Capital, later taking the job title of ‘senior monk’ at MediaMonks after outbidding WPP for control of the digital production firm. S4 itself was valued at £949million last night.
Sir Martin could not be reached for comment.
Sir Martin transformed WPP from a tiny manufacturer of shopping baskets into one of the world’s most powerful marketing agencies, worth more than £11billion
HOW SIR MARTIN SORRELL TURNED A WIRE COMPANY INTO ADVERTISING GIANT WPP
Sir Martin Sorrell helped form WPP in 1985 after taking control of a shell company, Wire & Plastic Products, and established it as a marketing services group in 1986.
Brought up as an only child – a brother died in childbirth – in a Jewish household in North London, Sorrell attended Cambridge and Harvard universities before entering the world of commerce.
He flew beneath the radar in his early years, but rose to prominence after being made finance boss of advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi. As he helped build it into a global giant, Sorrell became known as the ‘third Saatchi’ brother, after founders Maurice and Charles.
He was chief executive of WPP for more than three decades.
He oversaw the huge growth of company, building WPP into a firm that dominates the advertising industry with around 134,000 staff in 3,000 offices in 112 countries.
He was one of the UK’s highest earners, taking home £70million in the tax year 2015-16.
This WPP warned that 2017 was ‘not a pretty year’ for the firm due to flat growth, despite profits of more than £2bn.
Sorrell stepped down on April 14, walking away with £20 million in share options.