Advertising Age: What was your biggest accomplishment as WPP's country manager?
Mr. Benatti: The company's revenues in Italy increased very dramatically between 2002 and 2005, when I was country manager. Profits more than doubled over the same period, and the company became much leaner. At one point last year, I noticed that 27 of the 30 largest clients were firms that signed with WPP under my watch. What I'm most proud of is building a very talented team. I always believed that if a company has a sound business plan and the right talent in place, an increase in revenue and things like that come automatically.
AA: How do you explain the accusations from the WPP investigation? WPP alleges that your stakes in companies are hidden through off-shore companies from Europe to the island of Niue in the South Pacific. They say such a structure can only be designed to cover something up. Also, WPP says you directed clients to FullSix.
Mr. Benatti: I honestly don't know anything about any of this. The first time I heard about some holding in Niue was when I read about it in the newspapers. I'm not a banker; I'm a businessman. Like many people, I put my investments in different funds as a hedge against risk, and I don't investigate every aspect about where or how they invest the money. There may have been something to do with Niue in all of this, but if there was I was unaware of it. As for the idea that I was sending clients to FullSix, how could that be true when I was helping WPP's revenue, profits, and client list grow so quickly? I brought in huge clients like Telecom Italia and Fiat.
AA: What would you like to tell Martin Sorrell?
Mr. Benatti: I would ask, "Martin, why are you doing this to me? What has happened? What changed? When will you come to your senses?"
AA: What would you like to be doing five years from now?
Mr. Benatti: I'd like to be doing something quite similar to what I had been doing, working in advertising, communications and media. I'd like to have an international partner. But instead of letting the partner pick me as I did with WPP, I would like to pick the partner.