OBITUARY : Paolo Gucci

Paolo Gucci, the former vice-president and managing director both of Gucci Shops Inc and Gucci Parfums of America, was a key player in the power struggle for control of the Gucci leather goods and fashion empire. In fact, it was Paolo who initiated an extraordinary series of lawsuits that would eventually lead to the downfall of the Guccis, who in the early Nineties were forced to sell the family business to the Arab investment bank Investcorp.

In Italy, the Gucci family was as famous for its highly public quarrels as it was for the leather goods that made its fortune. It was a bitter fight with his own father that inspired Guccio Gucci, the founder of the family firm, born in 1881, to leave Florence for London, where he found work as a waiter at the Savoy Hotel. The elegant suitcases and trunks of the hotel's rich patrons made a lasting impression on the young Guccio, who upon his return to Florence in 1904 opened a workshop in Via della Bigna producing saddles, riding boots and luggage.

Guccio's son and Paolo's father, Aldo, moved to New York in 1953 and played a leading role in improving the family's fortunes by persuading rich Americans to appreciate the understated elegance of the firm's handbags and, above all, of its loafers. By the end of the Fifties, the Gucci intertwined double-G trademark had become a firm favourite of film stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.

In 1977, Aldo made Paolo vice-president and managing director of Gucci Shops Inc and of Gucci Parfums of America. But, after a period of expansion in the Seventies, bad times befell the Guccis in the early Eighties. The family disputes first became public when Paolo fell out with his uncle Rodolfo over the American subsidiaries. According to Paolo, all his troubles stemmed from his attempts to expand and modernise the Gucci empire by marketing the name "Gucci" with a licensing operation. He claimed that the family, especially his uncle Rodolfo, who had fired him from the Italian parent company in 1978, wanted to keep the business small, exclusive and old-fashioned. In 1983, Rodolfo died, leaving his shares in the company to his son Maurizio, then 25. Inevitably this led Maurizio into conflict with his uncle and his three cousins.

More trouble erupted when Paolo decided he wanted to sell his own range of goods under the name "Paolo Gucci" and filed a lawsuit for compensation from the family business. After Aldo fired him from his jobs with Gucci in America, Paolo turned against his father, and produced documents showing that Aldo had siphoned off profits to offshore companies to avoid paying taxes. In 1986, Aldo Gucci pleaded guilty in a US court to evading $7m in taxes and was jailed for a year and a day.

Ironically, Paolo was landed in jail himself by his own matrimonial misadventures. Last year, he spent five weeks behind bars in New York on contempt charges for failing to pay his estranged English-born second wife, Jenny Garwood, almost half a million dollars in back alimony and child support for their daughter, Gemma. Paolo already had two other daughters, Elisabetta and Patrizia, from his first wedding with Yvonne Moschetto, who still lives in Florence. Paolo had broken up with Jenny in 1990, after he took up with Penny Armstrong, a stable-girl at the stud farm adjoining his mansion in Rusper, Sussex, with whom he went on to have two children.

Paolo, who in 1987 reportedly received around $41m from Investcorp for his share in the family firm, recently sought bankruptcy protection in the United States, citing debts of $90m. One week before his death, he signed a restructuring plan to pay back his creditors. Paolo's death has left Penny Armstrong and his estranged wife Jenny Garwood to carry on the battle over his money. According to one estimate, his British assets of a mansion and stables in Sussex, and a string of prize thoroughbred Arab horses, are worth some pounds 3m.

Wolfgang Achtner

Paolo Gucci, businessman: born 1931; vice-president and managing director, Gucci Shops Inc and Gucci Parfums of America 1977-82; married first Yvonne Moschetto (two daughters; marriage dissolved), 1977 Jenny Garwood (one daughter; and one son, one daughter by Penny Armstrong); died London 10 October 1995.

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star