Marco Benatti, the founder and chairman of CIA Medianetwork Italy and former CIA Group vice-chairman, has quit the company, as predicted in Marketing Week (January 21). The move loosens CIA’s hold on the crucial &£100m Italian Unilever account and has far-reaching implications in the global battle for Unilever’s consolidated media account.
Speculation is mounting that Benatti may eventually join WPP-owned MindShare in Italy and that he has already been involved in talks with WPP Group chairman Martin Sorrell.
If MindShare wins the Unilever business from CIA in Italy, it will be in a stronger position to capitalise on Unilever’s move towards media consolidation. Currently, Western Initiative Media is in a global battle with WPP’s MindShare for the Unilever business.
In January, another key Unilever executive, CIA director Giulio Malegori, left to join MindShare. A source close to the company says: “I believe Benatti was instrumental in bringing Giulio Malegori to MindShare.”
However, a CIA spokeswoman denies Benatti is joining MindShare. Mainardo de Nardis, chief executive of CIA Medianetwork UK says: “This resignation is very much for personal reasons – Marco is about to have his sixth baby. My answer can only be that he has a contract which means he cannot work for a competing organisation for two years.”
Italy is a vital market to Tempus Group, CIA Medianetwork’s parent company, and is thought to represent some 20 per cent of its billings. In Italy, CIA’s &£100m Unilever business is thought to represent almost one-fifth of the local office’s billings.
Benatti, founder and chairman of CIA Medianetwork Italy and a former CIA vice-chairman, clashed with Tempus Group chairman Chris Ingram two years ago when he sold his 14.6 per cent stake in the group to Martin Sorrell’s WPP (MW June 5 1997).