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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 March 2007, 22:38 GMT 23:38 UK
Sorrell accepts 120,000 payout
WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell
Sir Martin heads the world's second largest ad agency and marketing firm
Advertising tycoon Sir Martin Sorrell has accepted 120,000 in damages to settle a privacy and libel action over a hate campaign run against him.

Sir Martin took Italian firm Fullsix Spa and two former executives Marco Benatti and Marco Tinelli to court.

At the High Court Sir Martin agreed to accept damages without any admission of liability by the defendants.

The WPP chief executive boss had accused the group of being behind a defamatory blog.

The web is a democratic force and a highly positive force but it can be abused, particularly when there are cowardly vengeful and spiteful attacks
Sir Martin Sorrell

He also claimed they were behind an anonymously sent e-mail showing a "grossly intrusive" computer image of Mr Sorrel and WPP Italy executive Daniela Weber.

However, BBC business reporter Martin Shankleman said that it was unclear who was really the victor in the case, saying that Mr Sorrell had not managed to prove which individuals were behind the actions.

"He went to court to establish that those two people were responsible, but he found it difficult to produce the evidence to pin that on those people," Mr Shankleman said.

"He has not achieved what he set out to achieve."

Electronic trail

Mr Tinelli told the BBC he felt that he had won because Mr Sorrell had "left the battlefield".

"He was accusing us of things we hadn't done, and he recognised it," he said.

It was claimed in court that Mr Tinelli was motivated by his hostility to Sir Martin and Ms Weber, whom he apparently labelled as the "mad dwarf and nympho schizo" .

To back up his claims, Sir Martin employed private investigators to search for electronic footprints of the culprits.

They retrieved records from various laptops which, together with data from internet service providers, helped track e-mail traffic and the creation of the blogs.

They found that the computer image had been generated on an email account using a false name - JP Stevens - at Yahoo France.

The libellous blog was sent around the world using what was called "anonymising software", covering up the origins of the message.

The two former Fullsix employees had denied their involvement in creating either the blog or the e-mail in question.

The trial is thought to be the first ever involving claims of a libellous blog, but Mr Sorrell said the scale of the damages paid out could mean that more such cases would be brought.

"The web is a democratic force and a highly positive force but it can be abused, particularly when there are cowardly vengeful and spiteful attacks of this nature on companies and individuals," he told the BBC.

Ms Weber also accepted 30,000 in settlement of her action for invasion of privacy stemming from the same alleged internet campaign - again without admission of liability by the defendants.


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