Sorrell Settles Libel Action Against Former WPP Italy Exec

Drops Claim as Defendants Agree to Payments to the WPP Chief Executive

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- Both sides are claiming victory as Martin Sorrell's libel action ended today after several days of debate behind closed doors over new forensic evidence, though Mr. Sorrell and another plaintiff were awarded damages of almost $300,000.
Martin Sorrell
Photo: Newscom

Martin Sorrell outside High Court in London March 15 before the start of his libel trial, which ended today with both sides claiming victory following a settlement in whioch the WPP chief executive and Daniela Weber totalling almost $300,000. | ALSO: Comment on this article in the 'Your Opinion' box below.

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Drops his claim
Mr. Sorrell dropped his claim that Marco Benatti and Marco Tinelli were personally responsible for scurrilous blogs and an e-mailed photo. And the two defendants agreed to payments to the WPP Group chief executive and Daniela Weber, WPP's chief operating officer for Italy, apparently because of evidence that FullSix, the Italian media company Mr. Benatti founded and Mr. Tinelli ran, may have been involved in disseminating the material online.

Yet both men continued to hurl accusations after the trial ended as they spoke briefly to journalists. Mr. Sorrell said, "It's difficult to imagine a more vengeful attack, or anyone stooping so low." Mr. Benatti said, "Sir Martin Sorrell has fled the battlefield."

Desmond Browne, Mr. Sorrell's barrister, read a four-sentence statement in London's High Court that ended the 11-day libel trial. "FullSix, Marco Benatti and Marco Tinelli repeat their acceptance that the allegations complained of in the blogs in the libel action are untrue, and that the e-mails which are the subject matter of the privacy action infringe the claimants' privacy."

For his part, Mr. Sorrell acknowledged that Mr. Benatti and Mr. Tinelli have given assurances that they were not personally responsible, so he is not pursuing his complaint that Mr. Benatti or Mr. Tinelli was personally responsible.

No admission of liability
The claimants have accepted payment of $197,000 to Mr. Sorrell for the publication of the libel and $59,000 and $39,000 for Ms. Weber and Mr. Sorrell, respectively, for the dissemination of the offending e-mails as money paid into court on behalf of all the defendants without admission of liability on Feb. 9. The parties have agreed terms as to costs.

A spokesman for Mr. Benatti handed out a statement from the Italian executive as journalists waited for a translator to arrive so they could question him directly.

In the statement, Mr. Benatti said, "Having accused the defendants in open court of lying, and challenged them to explain themselves, Sir Martin Sorrell has fled the battlefield. One can only conclude that Sir Martin now recognizes his case was fatally flawed."

Mr. Sorrell said, "It's a very good day for us. The damages speak for themselves."
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