Martin Sorrell says U.S.-China 'cold war' is bogging down business, dismisses Big Tech break-up

Key Points
  • S4 Capital CEO Martin Sorrell argues Facebook and Google shouldn't be broken up and advertising boycotts "don't really achieve much."
  • Sorrell says controlled companies are better long-term investments than those with CEOs that don't own stock because founders typically have more skin in the game.
  • Sorrell questions strategies around investment diversification, saying his dad taught him it makes more sense to put money in companies you understand and work for.

A View from the Top is a Q&A series exclusively available on CNBC Pro. Alex Sherman will regularly speak with a business leader about decision-making, investing and industry news.

Sir Martin Sorrell is probably the most famous active executive in all of advertising. In 2018, he shocked the media world by quitting WPP, the advertising agency he founded when he took a controlling stake in 1985. His departure was clouded by a board investigation around potential personal misconduct, though Sorrell says he'd already decided to leave. Just weeks later, Sorrell founded S4 Capital, a digital-focused marketing firm that now competes directly against WPP. 

The Financial Times detailed allegations from anonymous subordinates who criticized Sorrell's management styles. But when asked if he's changed the way he treats employees, Sorrell simply said, "No."

At 75, Sorrell said he plans to work until he drops dead. His mission is to grow S4 Capital into the type of global advertising behemoth WPP became in the 1990s and 2000s. But he acknowledged his global aspirations have become more difficult in the midst of the Trump administration's business war with the Chinese government.

"It is making it extremely difficult to run a global business when you have the two biggest economies in the world fighting one another," Sorrell said. "Effectively, we have a Cold War. And it's growing in its intensity."

Here's the full Q&A: