NEW YORK - The owners of the Penthouse empire must face the wrath of company founder Bob Guccione in court, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

Guccione sued Penthouse Media Group and its principals, Marc Bell and Daniel Staton, in 2005, claiming they broke an agreement to keep him on as a $500,000-a-year consultant after buying his company. The suit alleges breach of contract, fraud, frivolous bankruptcy filings and conspiracy, among other charges.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Charles Ramos denied Penthouse's motion to dismiss the complaint.