Benatti's Big Aria: Sorrell 'Betrayed Me'

17 February 2006

The operatic battle between WPP Group ceo Sir Martin Sorrell and former WPP Italia country manager Marco Bennatti swelled on Thursday, drowning the glissando of the writs flying between the warring meistersingers.

While Sorrell leapt in with the opera's first aria early in Act One [WAMN: 18-Jan-06], Benatti waited for the audience to settle comfortably before delivering his first solo.

Speaking to the UK Daily Telegraph, Benatti declared himself "betrayed" by Sir Martin, whose actions, he claimed, had harmed WPP's reputation and relationship with clients.

"A lot of WPP clients are shocked by this situation. There are many ways to divorce but the one Martin chose for me is the worse that a communications man can choose because it is damaging me and also WPP. Martin does not have my respect."

WPP's libretto alleges that Benatti, dismissed on January 9, had undeclared interests in a company called Mediaclub, eventually acquired by WPP Italia for £14 million ($24.83m; €20.47m). Benatti subsequently received a £140,000 commission payment for brokering the deal.

Benatti, singing mainly through an interpreter, denied wrongdoing, insisting that his only link with Mediaclub was via a Scottish investment trust over which he had no control.

The trust had a stake in a company, Callia, which held 90% of Mediaclub. "I had only an indirect interest in Mediaclub," Benatti warbled.

"I had sold a company and my brother suggested that I put the money in this trust. I am a businessman, my brother is a banker. Sometimes I sought his advice. But the suggestion we have a network of offshore trusts is rubbish.

"Mediaclub was a really good deal for WPP. I asked Martin: even if you knew I had an interest in Mediaclub, would you still have wanted it? He said yes. WPP did plenty of due diligence on Mediaclub."

Benatti insists the true reason for the dispute between Sorrell and himself is that of strategy.

At which point the diva's introductory chords are heard. Enter WPP Italia's chief operating officer Daniela Weber, with whom Benatti claims he had strategic differences.

But in the best traditions of Italian opera, there have been media suggestions of a non-strategic relationship between Benatti and Weber - reports that Benatti denied molto fortissimo to the Telegraph.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff