By  on May 21, 2009

MILAN — There appear to be changes afoot at Versace.

Sources here claim Giancarlo Di Risio is leaving as chief executive officer following reported strategic differences, while Bain & Co. has been called in to advise the Versace family on the brand’s future direction.

But the family, who owns 100 percent of the company, issued a rare statement Thursday denying the “professional relationship between the company and its ceo has been terminated.” The statement, which didn’t mention Di Risio by name, was not on the company’s letterhead and highlighted that it was sent from the family and not the firm.

In the statement, the Versaces said Bain & Co. has drawn up a three-year industrial plan “with the help of the existing management.” The plan “will be evaluated over the next few days by the board of directors and consequently put into action,” said the family.

One analyst said the decision to bring in external consultants “may have irked” Di Risio, although the executive sits on the board and would be a party to the discussions. In an attempt to flex his muscles and rediscuss his future with the company, Di Risio may also have leaked to sources that he was planning to leave, other sources speculated.

“Versace has been focusing its attention for some time now on the measures it should adopt to confront the effects of the economic downturn on the luxury sector,” the Versaces said. “The Versace family (Allegra, Santo and Donatella), owners of 100 percent of the capital of the Versace company, confirm their full support towards the growth and the consolidation of the company and its activities.”

Prior to Versace, Di Risio served stints at the helms of IT Holding and Fendi. His experience in the luxury goods sector, organizational skills and production expertise helped bring structure to Versace and turn around the company, getting it back in the black. Versace’s largest single shareholder, Allegra Versace Beck, who owns 50 percent of the firm; her mother Donatella, who holds 20 percent, and her uncle Santo, who controls 30 percent, tapped Di Risio in the summer of 2004, the year Beck turned 18 and inherited full control of her stake in the company her uncle Gianni had left her. Santo is president of the board and his sister is vice president and creative director of the brand.

A number of sources said the relationship between the Versace family and Di Risio “appeared idyllic” until recently, but others said there have been increasing strategic differences between the executive and the Versace family.

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