WPP keeps action against Benatti in UK courts

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The Independent Online

The advertising giant WPP yesterday succeeded in its attempt to keep its high-profile lawsuit against its former country manager for Italy, Marco Benatti, in the UK courts.

A High Court judge dismissed Mr Benatti's call to have his case moved to Italy, where he lives and works. Mr Benatti is seeking to appeal against the decision.

WPP is suing Mr Benatti, who was sacked from the company in January, for breach of contract, alleging he failed to disclose his ownership of a stake in the rival advertising firm Media Club, which WPP acquired for €20.7m (£14.2m) in 2002. The group also alleges Mr Benatti contracted out work to other companies to avoid WPP budget restrictions, as well as for his own personal benefit. He denies any wrongdoing.

Mr Benatti failed in his bid to have the breach of contract case held in Italy due to the nature of his employment. Mr Justice Field, hearing the case in the High Court, ruled Mr Benatti had been a consultant for WPP, not an employee. Therefore, the case fell within the jurisdiction of the English courts.

Mr Benatti is in the process of launching a civil lawsuit for unfair dismissal in the Italian courts, anyway. Under his consulting agreement with the group, Mr Benatti was entitled to earn up to €850,000 a year for identifying acquisition targets.

In a statement, a spokesman for Mr Benatti said: "Further to the decision of the English judge ... which merely states the competence of the English court in deciding over the claims of WPP against [Mr Benatti], the legal counsels of Mr Marco Benatti have already filed an application for permission to appeal.

"While denying, once again, all of the wrongdoings so widely publicised by WPP, Mr Benatti underlines that... the first hearing of the civil lawsuit brought against WPP [for unfair dismissal] will be held on 20 July before the Court of Verona."