On March 27, 1995, Maurizio Gucci was shot dead. His mafia-style execution shocked the world. As head of Gucci, Maurizio had become notorious in the 1980s after masterminding a hostile takeover of the Italian fashion empire. Partnering with Saudi Arabian company Investcorp, Maurizio ousted his uncle and cousins from the 60-year-old family business.
Who was Maurizio Gucci?
Maurizio wanted to modernize Gucci. His family, he believed, were hopelessly outdated in their thinking. He was also aware that his uncle Aldo Gucci had been funneling more than $11 million away from the company through illegal tax schemes.
His victory was short-lived. Within three years Maurizio himself was forced to sell his ownership share of the company to his business partners. Unknown to anyone, his lavish lifestyle had amassed him a colossal amount of personal debt. Faced with bankruptcy, Maurizio was forced to sell his ownership in Gucci to Investcorp.
The changes Maurizio set into motion transformed the near-bankrupt Gucci into the astounding success it is today. Maurizio, however, also ensured neither he nor any member of his family would enjoy these gains. Ousted from Gucci, Maurizio resolved to make his fortune anew. He may have done so. Had it not been for ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani‘s bloody vendetta.
On strict and controlling father Rodolfo Gucci
“He both overprotected and made me work hard. Which was his way of making me see that I had o fulfill a dual role in life, on the one hand dedicating myself to a full-time job and on the other of having the privilege of wealth and position.”
Maurizio was the son Rodolfo Gucci. His father, a former Italian actor, had married his mother Alessandra Winckelhaussen in 1944. Alessandra died when Maurizio was 5. After, Rodolfo became increasingly controlling and overprotective. For fear of kidnapping, Maurizio was not even allowed to ride his bicycle without the family chauffeur driving close behind him.
On Rodolfo’s role in the Gucci Empire
“After he lost my mother, my father put all his love into the business. He seemed to have none left for others. So much dedication to one thing can be negative, and for me, it was because I was forced to realize that he expected me to be his creature. He wanted to plan everything I was supposed to do in my entire life. Well, a young man does not always accept such direction indefinitely.”
As Rodolfo’s acting career taped off in the 1940s, he became increasingly involved in the Gucci family business. Rodolfo had inherited a 50% share of the fashion house from Maurizio’s grandfather and company founder Guccio Gucci. This ensured his only son a bright future in the multi-million dollar business.
On outsting his family from the Gucci business
“My cousins were all convinced they were God’s gift to fashion – but Giorgio is totally hopeless, all he cares about is awarding the Gucci trophy cup at the Equestrian… Roberto thinks he is an Englishman, his shirt and collar are so stiff he can hardly move. Paulo is a complete liability whose most significant achievement in life was to put his father in jail! These are my relatives. I call them the ‘pizza brothers.'”
After completing his education Maurizio began working for Gucci. Increasingly he found himself at odds with his cousins and uncle. They did not realize the times were changing. Maurizio viewed their actions as destroying the brand. His mission was to restore Gucci to its former glory. When Rodolfo died he was given his chance. Maurizio inherited 50% of the company. His uncle Aldo had only 40% ownership share, having transferred a 3.3% ownership share of Gucci to his three sons Girogo, Roberto, and Paulo. It was a decision Aldo lived to regret.
Maurizio Gucci on Aldo Gucci
“One minute a kiss, the next a sword.“
Learning that Paolo Gucci had fallen out with his family, Maurizo was able to buy his cousin’s share in the company. With Aldo imprisoned for tax fraud in 1986, the elder Gucci could do little to stand his nephew’s way. Maurizio partnered with Investcorp in 1987 to buy Paolo’s share of the company. Removed from any decision-making, his remaining two cousins were forced to sell their shares shortly after. Defeated, Aldo followed their lead in 1989. Maurizio and Investcorp were now in complete control. “I am the new Gucci,” a victorious Maurizio proclaimed.
“I trust people. Sometimes it is not good to trust so much. the more you trust the more you suffer. If you trust less you get less, but you also suffer less. When you find your trust has been given to someone who does not deserve it, that is very painful.“
Maurizio Gucci was raised as an only child. He was charismatic to outsiders. Yet the product of a sheltered upbringing, and perhaps as the result of the bitter infighting within the extended Gucci family, had few if any real friends.
A fractured Gucci logo
Maurizio Gucci on leaving Patrizia Reggiani
“I need my freedom! Don’t you understand? First, I had my father, who told me what to do, now I have you.”
Maurizio Gucci met their future wife Patrizia Reggiani on November 23rd, 1970. At first, she was not interested. After separating from her fiancé, she changed her mind. Despite Rodolfo Gucci forbidding the union, the pair married shortly after. The pair would have two children. Yet they increasingly they grew apart. When Maurizio’s father died and he began to take control of the Gucci company, he came to view his wife as another controlling force in his life. One he could live without. The pair divorced in 1991. The decison infuriated Patrizia. “I want to tell you that you are a monster,” she sent in a cassette recorded message to her former husband. “Maurizio, the inferno for you is yet to come.”
On selling his stake in Gucci
“I did what I had to do.“
Maurizio had a grand vision for a modern Gucci. Business partner Investcorp, however, soon lost patience. A key cause of the rift was Maurizio halting the production of a number of cheaper Gucci items. As a result, the company spiraled toward self-destruction. With little regard for money, Maurizio was also accruing millions of dollars in personal debts. Living extravagantly, he quickly spent the fortune father Rodolfo left him. By the early 1990s, he was facing total bankruptcy. With Gucci hemorrhaging money, he could not leverage his half ownership to secure personal loans. The only option was to sell Gucci to the company that had helped him ousted his family from the business. In 1993 he sold his stake in the company his grandfather had built to Investcorp for $170 million (US).
Maurizio Gucci’s last words
On March 27, 1995, Maurizio said goodbye to his new girlfriend Paola Franchi and left his luxurious Milan apartment. Greeting his doorman, he was accosted by a stranger. Drawing a gun the assassin, a drug dealer-turned hitman ex-wife Patrizia had hired, fired two shots. His aim was true. Both landed found their mark in Maurizio’s back. Stunned, the former Gucci CEO fell to the ground. Walking toward Maurizio, his murderer unloaded a final bullet into his temple to ensure the job was done. Patrizia was charged with masterminding the murder. A crime she felt was justified. “Few women can truly capture the heart of a man,” she later reflected, “even fewer manage to own it.“