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Michigan Matters Exclusive: Zooming With Sorrell and Stewart

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(credit: WWJ-TV) Carol Cain
An Emmy Award winning journalist, Carol Cain is also the se...
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michigan matters 2 Michigan Matters Exclusive: Zooming With Sorrell and Stewart

Racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart with WWJ-TV's Trey Fabacher and Carol Cain, host of "Michigan Matters."

By Carol Cain
Senior Producer and Host
WWJ-TV CBS Detroit “Michigan Matters”

When you’re about to sit down with two legendary men knighted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, you know you’re in store for some riveting conversation.

Such was the case when Sir Martin Sorrell and Sir Jackie Stewart joined the WWJ-TV team while attending the North American International Auto Show’s Charity Preview for an exclusive “Michigan Matters.”

Their stories were downright inspirational. Watch the video here.

Stewart, 72,  the iconic race car driver who won the World Championship three times, is a best-selling author and successful broadcasting/business executive  who talked of being a young man suffering  from dyslexia who dropped out of school at age 15.

He became a garage mechanic and by chance found his way into the driver’s seat of a race car he happened to be working on. As a thank you, its owner offered the young Stewart a chance to drive it in a race. He did so well the owner encouraged him to continue.

Stewart drove his way in to the history books as one of the most successful race car drivers of all time.

Sorrell, 66, CEO of WPP PLC,  talked of going from Saatchi & Saatchi – the ad agency he helped grow through acquisitions before he faced his “male menopause” moment in the mid 1980s and decided to strike out on his own.

He put down $393,000 and purchased a controlling interest in Wire and Plastic Products Plc.  in Britain. From there, he again proved he had the Midas touch as he began a series of acquisitions that turned the firm into a global powerhouse that is largest advertising group in the world with revenues of $16 billion and billings of $80 billion.

It wasn’t always easy and the firm had its share of ups and down.

Sorrell talked about the importance of putting a premium on talent and having the right employees .

Today, he runs an empire of 153,000 employees and  companies such as  JWT, Ogilvy, Young & Rubicam and Grey, Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton, and Wunderman under its umbrella. WPP’s  clients include more than half of the Fortune Global 500 companies.

Before they were ‘Sirs’

Ironically, the two worked together  decades earlier “when Martin carried my bags,” said Stewart – also known as “the flying Scotsman’ for his racing prowess.

Sorrell graduated from Harvard where he obtained his MBA and was working for Mark McCormack, the  sports agent who represented  stars like Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Jackie Stewart.

“Martin was assigned to me and actually did carry my bags,” Stewart said.

When asked if he knew the young Sorrell would later ascend to the top of the communications world,  Stewart said, “No. I would have thought he’d have stayed with Mark McCormack.”

The two are pals and share a long association with the Motor City and Ford.

Stewart had a 40-year relationship with Ford Motor Co. during his storied career and WPP counts Ford among its largest clients.

Stewart also is an ambassador  for Royal Bank of Scotland, parent company of Charter One Bank.

“Just like auto companies have national and international arms, so too banks. Charter One is a great regional Bank and RBS  a great international bank,” explained Stewart.

Sorrell, whose words have impacted Wall Street and Madison Avenue, talked about the U.S. economy which he expects to improve slightly in 2012 from 2011.

But 2013 could be a different story.

“With the presidential race over and a national debt, the country will have some challenges,” Sorrell said.

Sorrell, whose Team Detroit has handled Ford and Lincoln from Metro Detroit,  is recalibrating.

The Lincoln work just moved to New York City where Team Lincoln has set up shop.

Why the Big Apple?

“Because that is where much talent lies,” said Sorrell of work on the luxury brand.  “This only makes WPP that much stronger as we will have Team Detroit and Team Lincoln.”

michigan matters 11 Michigan Matters Exclusive: Zooming With Sorrell and Stewart

The WWJ-TV team with Sir Martin Sorrell.

(Carol Cain is the Emmy winning Senior Producer and Host of  “Michigan Matters” which airs 11 a.m on Sundays.  Cain also writes about business and politics in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at clcain@cbs.com or 248-355-7126)

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