Mr Ogilvy, the founder of Ogilvy & Mather, the blue-chip advertising agency acquired by WPP in 1989, is making way for a newcomer whose identity is being kept under wraps by WPP.
However, the new man is not Paul Judge, a WPP board member who was initially considered a contender for the non-executive post. He has been pipped to the chair by an unknown successor, understood to be a senior figure from a multinational consumer products group.
Mr Ogilvy, aged 81, will remain on WPP's board.
Awarded a CBE in 1967, he is the author of several seminal books on advertising. He joined WPP despite taking a dislike to Martin Sorrell, WPP's chief executive, during its controversial takeover of Ogilvy Group.
In a memorable aside about Mr Sorrell, he said: 'God, the idea of being taken over by that odious little jerk gives me the creeps.'
At the time Mr Ogilvy had retired from advertising, but was taking a keen interest in the bid.
Charmed by Mr Sorrell, he was quickly persuaded to head WPP's board after the bid was accepted by the target's board.
Since then, however, WPP has run into serious financial problems. Its market value has slumped from a peak of about pounds 400m to about pounds 30m. Mr Ogilvy is stepping down as the group finalises a dollars 422m refinacing proposal involving a partial equity-for-debt swap. The plans will be put up for approval to shareholders in a circular to be posted on 12 July.
The company is expected to make a statement about current trading in the circular.
Analysts expect WPP will report a sharp fall in taxable profits this year. Market estimates are ranged at around pounds 45m, compared with a result of pounds 56m last year. In 1990, the company made taxable profits of pounds 90m.
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