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Thakrar resigns from WPP Scangroup in wake of allegations of financial malfeasance

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Bharat Thakrar, the Chief Executive Officer of WPP Scangroup, the African arm of the world’s biggest advertising agency group, has finally resigned from the company following grave allegations of financial impropriety by the board of the company.

WPP Scangroup had earlier in a statement dated February 19, 2021, announced the suspension of Bharat Thakrar and the Chief Finance Officer of the company, Satyabrata Das, over allegations of gross misconduct and other “offences in their capacity as executives and employees of the company.”

The company had immediately appointed one Graham Alec as the interim Chief Operating Officer for the continued smooth running of the business, advising shareholders to exercise caution in the trading of the company’s securities on the stock market.

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In spite of his resignation from the company and by extension, his membership of all its subsidiaries, WPP insisted in the statement that it would not discontinue with investigations of the allegations of financial impropriety allegations leveled against the Indian that naturalised in Kenya.

Details of the exact offences committed by Bharat and Mr. Das were not revealed, but Scangroup became a familiar name in the Nigerian advertising landscape from 2011 to 2016, during a protracted disagreement between the group and Ogilvy’s former affiliate in Nigeria, Prima Garnet Africa over plans by WPP/Ogilvy Africa using Bharat Thakrar, to buy majority shares in Prima Garnet Africa, the Nigerian business.

Prior to then, WPP had sold its shares in Ogilvy Africa to Bharat’s Scanad Advertising, giving rise to a new company, WPP Scangroup, on the understanding that the new African outfit would fast-track the dominance of WPP and its sub brands like Ogilvy in the African market with Nigeria as the launchpad.

Although Bharat couldn’t come into the Nigerian market the way he had planned, he was much later able to launch operations in Nigeria a few years ago working with Seni Adetu to open the Ogilvy Nigeria business, after a consent judgement against Ogilvy and WPP ended its court case with Prima Garnet that literally embargoed its operations for many years in Nigeria.

Sources have now suggested Nigeria to be Bharat Thakrar’s next destination following the sad end of his relationship with WPP Scangroup in Kenya and the East African region that cost him years and millions of dollars to midwife its emergence.

WPP Scangroup already controlled 80 per cent of the Kenyan PR, Advertising and Marketing business and was committed to replicating the same dominance across Africa, although many Nigerian businesses managed by the group at the global level had of recent, opted for more nimble agencies to handle their briefs.

Airtel Nigeria is one clear example. At the peak of industry competition in the data category, Airtel had hired an indigenous Nigerian agency, Noah’s Ark to manage its creative briefs while another Nigerian agency, CMC Connect was put in charge of the company’s public relations management. Prima Garnet Africa manages part of the local Unilever business in Nigeria without any link to Ogilvy or WPP.

Many watchers are of the opinion that Bharat may want to take advantage of its relationship with the current Ogilvy Nigeria and its Group CEO to make a foray into Nigeria.

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