Bravo called to save Gucci

Designer departures could have a knock-on effect for the industry, says Jason Nissé
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The Independent Online

Francois Pinault, the French billionaire whose company, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, controls the Italian fashion house Gucci, is considering an audacious bid to bring the Burberry boss Rose Marie Bravo over to Gucci.

Ms Bravo, whose £10m pay deal makes her one of the best-paid people in British business, would fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Dom-enico De Sole, the chief ex- ecutive who revitalised Gucci.

He and designer Tom Ford announced their resignations last week, leaving PPR with a dilemma. It has promised to pay $2.5bn (£1.5bn) to buy the 31 per cent of Gucci it does not already own. This would take its total investment to more than $8bn, while analysts believe that without Mr De Sole and Mr Ford it is worth between $3bn and $5bn.

Fashion industry sources said M. Pinault planned to tempt Ms Bravo to take the reins at Gucci. "Her reputation at Burberry should be enough to soothe investors' doubts about Gucci for a while," said one senior figure.

"It would make sense," said a source close to Gucci. PPR would not comment, and Burberry was unaware of any approach. Ms Bravo came to Burberry from Saks Fifth Avenue, the US department store group which has struggled since her departure.

It is understood to be about to announce that Fred Wilson, who runs the Donna Karan fashion business, has been hired as its new chief executive, replacing Christina Johnson, Ms Bravo's successor.

Mr Wilson's departure will intensify speculation that LVMH, the fashion conglomerate that bought Donna Karan for $645m four years ago, is about to sell the company.

LVMH has previously denied the speculation but it is understood that Silas Chou and Lawrence Stroll, the entrepreneurs who make a great deal out of the success of Tommy Hilfiger, are interested in buying Donna Karan.

LVMH sources have denied rumours that the group's American designer, Marc Jacobs, may leave the group. Mr Jacobs, who made the Louis Vuitton label trendy and is the toast of the fashion world with his own-brand designs, was rumoured to be going to Gucci to replace Tom Ford. Mr Jacobs is believed to be unhappy about the size of the investment LVMH has put into the Marc Jacobs label. However, Bernard Arnault, LVMH chairman, is understood to have had talks with Mr Jacobs.

Alexander McQueen, the British designer, was said to have been offered the post of chief designer at Gucci, replacing Mr Ford, but to have turned it down.

Serge Weinberg, chief executive of PPR, has said Mr Ford's role as chief designer of both Gucci's main labels, Gucci and Yves St Laurent, will be split. It is believed PPR's wish to appoint a new designer at YSL was one of the reasons for Mr Ford and Mr De Sole's decision to leave.