Testifying against Marco Benatti, WPP chief Martin Sorrell last week in open court in London accused his former employee of disseminating a "vicious" image of him and a female executive and branding them "the mad dwarf and the nympho schizo."
Sorrell, who is suing for libel and breach of privacy, claims Benatti, his former Italy manager, launched a smear campaign against him in an effort to discredit and undermine his reputation.
Sorrell charges that Benatti and an associate, Marco Tinelli, circulated defamatory remarks about Sorrell and WPP Italy executive Daniela Weber on a series of Internet blogs. In court, Sorrell called the campaign "vindictive and vengeance."
The London press has been abuzz about an image, reported to be "vicious," and sources said it has not yet been described in court. The trial, which began March 14, is expected to continue at least into next week.
Several ad agency heads expressed disbelief that Sorrell would take the case to court.
"I find it unbelievable that he would rehash this," said one executive. "More people know about it now than would have."
Another said Sorrell's motives are understandable, but still questions his choice. "[He's] touched on something long overdue, which is the fact that there needs to be credibility and accountability [on blogs], and that comes from a journalist byline," said the executive. "The only question is why would you crusade at the expense of your own personal privacy?"