WPP Italia Boss Serves Libel Writ Over Benatti Allegations

10 March 2006

Rupert Murdoch's upscale British weekly The Sunday Times is on the receiving end of a lawsuit issued by lawyers acting for Daniela Weber, chief operating officer at WPP Italia.

Weber is claiming an unspecified sum in damages for alleged libel and "false privacy", citing two articles published in the ST in January and February this year.

Both pieces allege that Weber conducted a personal relationship with former WPP Italia country manager Marco Benatti - fired earlier this year over alleged financial improprieties. Both parties strongly deny any such liaison.

"False privacy" is a term increasingly fashionable among UK libel lawyers representing celebrity plaintiffs. It implies breach of privacy, even when the complainant denies the allegations that might legally be entitled to privacy. A jurisdictive version of 'Catch 22', it is a useful method of boosting the damages sought.

The offending articles were headlined 'Lawyers Probe Italian Job at Sorrell's WPP' and 'Benattigate Takes a New Twist'. But despite a retraction in the ST business section and an apology for "the distress and embarrassment caused," Weber is pressing her lawsuit.

Meantime writs and counter-writs continue to fly between London and Milan and WPP's fraud investigations headed by US forensic accounting specialist Kroll continue to seek skeletons in cupboards.

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff