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Battle for Gucci takes a legal turn

THE TITANIC struggle for control of Gucci, the Italian fashion house, last night appeared to be heading back to the courtroom after the board rejected a higher $8.3bn bid from LVMH, the French luxury goods group.

Gucci's supervisory board deemed "unacceptable" LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault's insistence that the $85 a share offer only be put to independent shareholders and that if more than 50 per cent accept, Gucci should issue enough new shares to give him control. LVMH wants the condition to get around the 42 per cent stake bought by rival Francois Pinault last month.

Gucci insisted LVMH could win even with the Pinault holding and was effectively asking Gucci to hand Mr Arnault control of the company on a plate.

Analysts said it was unlikely the battle would be resolved before a court hearing on 22 April at which an enterprise tribunal is expected to launch an investigation into the Pinault deal. "They just don't want to sell to LVMH," said one.