Benatti Calls for Probe

NEW YORK Marco Benatti, the former WPP Group Italy country manager who was fired in January, has asked police to investigate alleged break-ins last month at the company’s Italian headquarters in Milan.

In a statement issued today, Benatti said WPP never reported the intrusions to local authorities and he demanded they investigate. Benatti’s Milan offices, which he said still contain his belongings, are alleged to be the focus of the break-ins. He did not say what, if anything, was taken during the alleged break-ins.

WPP in Milan was broken into the weekends of Jan. 14 and Jan. 21, sources close to the investigation said.

Employees of Kroll Inc., the corporate investigations firm that was hired by WPP after Benatti’s investigation, reported the actions to police, sources said.

Neither Benatti nor WPP representatives could immediately be reached for comment.

Benatti’s statement today marks a new chapter in an escalating war of words between the sacked executive and WPP, which has brought in three law firms as it investigates alleged fraud and conflicts of interest [Adweek, Feb. 6].

According to sources, the first signs that something was amiss came in mid-December, when questions were raised about Benatti after he and WPP CEO Martin Sorrell disagreed over the amount of the earnout he believed he was due as part of WPP’s acquisition of Italian media buying company Media Club.

Part of Benatti’s job at WPP was to introduce the company to acquisition candidates, which he did with Media Club, earning him a commission of $247,000, according to sources close to WPP. Benatti demanded an earnout of nearly $11 million, compared to the $361,000 WPP believed he was owed, spurring further investigation, which revealed Media Club was ultimately majority-owned by Benatti. It’s understood that among other areas of WPP’s inquiry are media rebates and client bribes.