LONDON: The somber surroundings of London's gothic High Court on Thursday formed a contrapuntal backdrop to the case of Sir Martin Sorrell versus Marco Benatti - an event that promises the melodrama (if not the melody) of a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera.

A starry cast drawn from the great and the good of Europe's advertising firmament are expected to disport themselves before Mr Justice Eady, who will hear the alleged libel case brought by WPP Group ceo Sorrell against Benatti and Marco Tinelli, former senior executives of WPP's Italian operations.

In a quirky curtain raiser to the proceedings, Judge Eady cleared the court after Sorrell took the stand to claim that that Benatti's former wife had called him to warn that her ex-hubby had threatened to kill him.

Following a huddle between judge and opposing legal eagles, the court reconvened to hear from Sorrell's barrister, that defendant Tinelli "was directly involved in the dissemination of a vicious emailed JPEG image that intruded into the private lives of Sorrell and Daniela Weber," the former chief operating officer of WPP Italia.

"This," said barrister Desmond Browne, indicated that Tinelli "felt just as bitterly hostile [toward Sorrell] ... as did his boss, Mr. Benatti."

Browne then cited as proof that Tinelli referred to the vertically-challenged Sorrell and Weber as "the mad dwarf and the nympho schizo".

Weber was not present in court, although Benatti will testify next week. The case is expected to last three weeks.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff