Sorrell vs. Benatti Feud Winds Down

Confidential, Out-of-Court Deal Puts an End to Litigation

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LONDON ( -- Martin Sorrell's long-running legal standoff with the former director of WPP Italy has finally come to an end.
Martin Sorrell and Marco Benatti
Martin Sorrell and Marco Benatti

The WPP Group chief executive and Marco Benatti today agreed to an out-of-court settlement over the latest and final installment of their multi-lawsuit feud -- a London High Court dispute concerning the $30 million sale of the Italian company Media Club to WPP Group in 2002.

Undisclosed terms
No details of the settlement have been released in the case that started Oct. 6; Mr. Sorrell was due to testify early this week for out-of-court negotiations. A joint statement issued today said, "WPP and Marco Benatti have agreed to a full and final settlement of the disputes between them, which are the subject of the proceedings currently before the English High Court and related proceedings in Italy. The terms of the settlement are confidential."

Mr. Benatti was claiming unfair dismissal against WPP, while WPP alleged that Mr. Benatti neglected his "fiduciary duty" by not disclosing his major holding in Media Club at the time of the sale.

The two men still have business connections: Mr. Benatti owns a 46% stake in Italian agency FullSix, and WPP owns nearly 30%.

Online slurs
Last year's Sorrell-Benatti case in London's High Court was much more dramatic. The dispute involved a libel action in which Mr. Sorrell accused Mr. Benatti of circulating an e-mail attachment -- a computer-generated image of Mr. Sorrell and WPP Italy Chif Operating Officer Daniela Weber -- labeled "the mad dwarf and the nympho schizo."

That case was also settled after several days of out-of-court negotiations behind closed doors, though those terms were revealed to include payments to Mr. Sorrell and Ms. Weber and the dropping of allegations by Mr. Sorrell that Mr. Benatti was personally responsible for the e-mailed photo and scurrilous blogs.
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