Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci

Before I dive into this story of ghosts, gods and the Gucci Empire, let me tell you one thing. I do not believe in ghosts. Nor vengeful curses from the sea. I do however know that many do. And that they make for a great story. The kind which can lift the spirits of others during hard times such as these. As with the tall tale of the Gucci Kangaroo, enjoy what follows with a healthy scepticism.

Tempting the sea gods

The Creole is a 200-foot wooden sailing yacht. Built in 1927, its first owner was American millionaire Alexander Cochran. Christened Vira, it was the largest wooden sailing yacht ever constructed. Cochran did not have time to enjoy it. He died of cancer in 1929.

His heirs sold the boat. The Vira‘s second owner was Maurice Pope. The British yachtsman playfully renamed his new ship the Creole after a dessert invented by his chef. Pope’s change broke a very old taboo. Let me explain. Since ancient times superstitious sailors have been against renaming ships. When a boat is christened, the legend goes, its name goes into the Ledger of the Deep. This book is owned by the sea god Italians call Neptune.

To the Greeks he is Poseiden. Regardless of what you call him, this god is a vengeful one. Easily angered, he views the renaming of boats as an insult. And anyone who tries to fool the gods must be punished for their deviousness. Poseiden’s penalty? Bad luck.

Poseidon, King of the Sea 

Suicide on the Creole 

When the Second World War broke out, the British government requisitioned the Creole for service as a mine-hunter. The boat was then purchased by Stavros Niarchos in 1953. The Greek billionaire spared no expense in restoring the age-worn Creole to pristine condition. Afraid to sleep below deck for fear of drowning he added a stately teak-paneled cabin to the upper deck.

The luxurious boat was Niarchos’ pride and joy. Until two tragedies struck. Overdosing on pills, his wife Eugenia Livanos committed suicide on the Creole in 1970. Niarchos then married Eugenia’s sister Christina Livanos. Let me tell you, this is where it gets odd. Christina also overdosed in 1974.

Heartbroken, Niarchos swore never to set foot on the Creole again. He sold it to the Danish navy in 1977. The Danes put the boat to good use. It became a drug rehabilitation clinic.


The Creole [via Boat Interntional]

Maurizio Gucci and the exorcism of the Creole

This is where Maurizio Gucci enters the story. In 1982, one year before the death of father Rodolfo Gucci, Maurizio purchased the Creole. His wife Patrizia Gucci was suspicious. Aware of the two suicides, she informed Maurizio there was a negative aura lingering around the boat.

This did not please Maurizio. He intended to spend millions on restoring the Creole. (On Niarchos’ former master bedroom alone he would spend 970,000 American dollars.) If was Patrizia was correct, haunting spirits could have serious consequences.

And so, while the Creole was in dry dock at Italy’s La Spezia shipyard, Maurizo hired a psychic named Frida. Her task was to exorcise any malicious spirits. Accompanied by Maurizio, his wife, and two crewmen, Frida boarded the ship.

Lady Gaga as Patrizia in upcoming film 'House of Gucci'
Lady Gaga as Patrizia in upcoming film ‘House of Gucci’

A chilling discovery

Sarah Gay Forden, the author of House of Gucci, tells the story like this. At first, Frida walked about the ship in a trance. Finally, the five came to an open corridor. “Open the door, open the door,” she cried. As far as the ghost hunting party could see, there was no door. All they saw was an enclosed corridor. Then a dark look came across the face of one of the crewmen. Before Maurizio’s recent renovations, there had been.

How could Frida have known a door had stood there? The psychic then strolled towards a nearby kitchen. She demanded to be left alone. This puzzled the group. Until one of the crewmen explained. This had been the kitchen where Eugenia’s body was found.

At this moment a gust of cold wind ran past them. Frida informed Maurizio, Patrizia and the crew the exorcism was complete. “It’s all over,” Frida said, “There are no more evil spirits on the Creole. Eugenia’s ghost promised me that from now on, she will protect the Creole and its crew.”

Maurizio Gucci in life Maurizio Gucci

The downfall of Maurizo Gucci

Or so Frida claimed. Maurizio’s troubles with the Creole did not end here. In 1988 he faced allegations of tax fraud. After a tip-off from cousin Paulo Gucci, Maurizio was charged with concealing 24 million American dollars in unpaid taxes. Amongst these changes was the use of illegal funds to acquire the Creole. Maurizio was accused of using money funneled out of Italy via an illegal Panama company to make the purchase.

The trial made headlines. Maurizio, however, was later acquitted of wrongfully acquiring the Creol after the Italian government changed the laws prohibiting international transfers of funds. They were less lenient when it came to his back taxes. He still owed the government 24 million dollars.

Two years later, Maurizo was sailing the Creole. After seizing control of the Gucci luxury empire from his uncle in cousins, Maurizio was now company director. His guest was a representative of his business partner Investcorp. The man gave Maurizo an ultimatum. His vision to lead the company into the future had failed. Gucci was losing tens of millions of dollars a year as a result of his decisions. Investcorp demanded Maurizio step down.

Gucci a House Divided Gerry McKnight

A shattered Gucci logo

The final fracturing of the Gucci empire

Maurizio had a mountain of debts. One of the focuses of his lavish spending was the Creole. In 1993, his growing financial turmoil tied his hands. Unable to borrow more money, Maurizio sold his share in Gucci. The company his grandfather began in 1921 was no longer part of the Gucci dynasty.

There was a silver lining. Investcorp offered a 170 million dollar buy-out. The deal allowed Maurizio to pay his debts. With the fortune remaining, he could continue his luxurious lifestyle. He even kept the Creole.

Maurizio had only a few short years to enjoy it. In 1991 he had divorced his wife Patrizia. After many years of plotting revenge, Patrizia hatched a plan. In 1995 she ordered Maurizio’s mafia-style execution. Maurizio’s father Rodolfo had warned him about Patrizia. He had married her nonetheless. His passion was his undoing.

Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci

Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci

Ghosts, gods and Gucci

Maurizio could not restrain himself from his passion for spending the Gucci fortune. Especially when it came to the Creole. The superyacht paved the way to his financial ruin.

Was the Creole cursed? I doubt Allegra Gucci, who currently maintains the stunning yacht, thinks so. My views have been stated. I will add this though. (If only for your entertainment.) Had Pope, Niarchos or Maurizio performed the ancient rite of purging the ship’s original name, would their fortunes have fared better?  Instead, did they invoke Poseiden’s wrath?

Or did the psychic Frida overstep her bounds? Was she deceiving herself in sharing she had exorcised the ship? Even if you accept that ghosts and wrathful sea gods exist, would they really be so indirect as to wreak havoc on Maurizio’s Gucci’s tax accounts? To me, it all sounds a little silly. Most good stories are.

Riley Fitzgerald

Creative Director

Riley Fitzgerald is Managing Editor and Creative Director of The Glitter & Gold.

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The Glitter and Gold
The Glitter and Gold is a digital magazine and record store in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.
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