OBITUARY:Maurizio Gucci

Related Topics
Maurizio Gucci, the former chairman of the Gucci leather goods and fashion empire, was the last of the Guccis to be involved with the company bearing the family name.

In Italy, the Gucci family was just as famous for its highly public quarrels as it was for the leather goods that made its fortune. Indeed, it seems that the whole success story was sparked off by a quarrel. As the story goes, Guccio Gucci, the founder of the family firm, born in 1881, left Florence after a bitter fight with his father. In London he worked as a waiter at the Savoy Hotel, where he was inspired by the elegant suitcases and trunks of the hotel's rich patrons. Returning to Florence in 1904, he opened a workshop in Via della Vigna, producing saddles, riding boots, and luggage.

Guccio had four sons, Ugo, Vasco, Rodolfo and Aldo, and a daughter, Grimalda. The four sons cut skins in the workshop and, according to all accounts, spent a lot of time quarrelling. The family business prospered, but Rodolfo left to become a film actor. He appeared in 50 films and married a German woman, Alessandra Winkelhausen, Maurizio's mother.

The family workshop was destroyed during the Second World War, but the Guccis set up again and by the early Fifties the business was prospering, opening outlets in Rome, Milan, London, Paris and New York. By the time Guccio died, in 1953, two of the brothers had sold their shares in the company and Grimalda had married a Florentine gentleman. This left Rodolfo and Aldo to quarrel about who should be in charge of the family business.

Aldo moved to New York and played a key role in improving the family's fortunes by getting rich Americans to appreciate the understated elegance of the firm's handbags and, above all, the loafers. By the end of the Fifties, the Gucci intertwined gold G trademark had become a favourite of film stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.

After a period of expansion in the Seventies, the bad times arrived in the early Eighties, and with them an extraordinary series of lawsuits. Paolo fell out with his uncle Rodolfo over the American subsidiaries. In return, Rodolfo fired Paolo from the Italian company. In 1983, Rodolfo died, leaving his shares in the company to Maurizio, then 25. Inevitably, this led Maurizio into conflict with his uncle and his three cousins.

The next row was between Paolo, who wanted to sell his own range of goods, and the rest of the family. Paolo also turned against his father, after discovering that Aldo had siphoned off profits to offshore companies to avoid paying taxes. Soon after, Maurizio was involved in litigation by his uncle and his cousin Roberto, who claimed he had forged his father's signature to avoid paying inheritance tax.

Eventually Aldo and his sons sold their share to the huge Arab investment bank Investcorp. After Maurizio had happily solved his own judicial problems, he found himself in charge of the company that, by then, was out of control and in great financial trouble. The Gucci brand had been too widely spread and its name devalued, losing its appeal with upmarket customers.

Maurizio Gucci attempted to solve the company's woes by hiring Dawn Mello, one of the idols of US fashion. They had initial successes, but world- wide economic recession condemned Maurizio Gucci's efforts to failure. "I feel like Rocky Marciano," he said, describing the battles with his Arab partners, in 1993. "Each time he fought, his face was covered in blood, but he always won." One month later Maurizio Gucci lost his own battle, selling out to Investcorp for close to $200m.

"I greatly admired Maurizio, because he fought to save the family firm," said Stefano Dominella, a manager at the Italian fashion house Gattinoni. "Gucci, with Ferragamo, were the first names to present fashion `made in Italy' all around the world."

But in the end the Guccis were unable to contradict the old adage that so well describes most Italian industrial families: "The first generation creates the firm, the second consolidates it and the third destroys it".

Wolfgang Achtner

Maurizio Gucci, businessman: born Florence 26 September 1949; married (two daughters); died Milan 27 March 1995.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions