By and  on March 4, 2005

MILAN — Gabriella Forte is stepping down as president of Dolce & Gabbana USA, marking a significant power shift at the Italian fashion house.

The company issued a brief release Thursday stating that Forte has chosen not to renew her contract for personal reasons and that she will stay at the company as long as necessary to guarantee a smooth transition.

The statement thanked Forte for her professionalism and “commitment, which have helped to increase the positioning of the Dolce & Gabbana brands in such an important market, and we wish her all success in her important market, and we wish her all success in her upcoming ventures.”

Forte was not available for comment. A Dolce & Gabbana spokesman said she is on a weeklong vacation and can’t be reached.

Meanwhile, other management changes at Dolce & Gabbana look likely. As reported, former Gucci brand chief executive officer Giacomo Santucci is expected to take a high-level post at the house. It is still unclear whether he will report to Cristiana Ruella, director of general affairs, or answer directly to the designers, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.

Clearly, Dolce & Gabbana has seen some significant growth over the years. The most recent data from the house estimates that earnings before interest and taxes for the 12 months ending March 31 will grow 9.2 percent to 99.8 million euros, or $130.9 million at current exchange, and consolidated revenue will advance 19.6 percent to 700 million euros, or $918.4 million.

Such growth could be what’s prompting the group to consider reinforcing management and bringing in Santucci. Dolce & Gabbana declined to comment on that issue and Santucci did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Sources gave conflicting accounts of how the hierarchy at Dolce & Gabbana could morph with a Santucci entry. “There’s an issue about who reports to whom,” said one source close to Santucci. While a source insisted that Santucci would have a role “in a commercial capacity” and report to Ruella, another source close to the former Gucci manager insisted that Santucci wouldn’t accept anything less than a ceo position, thus above Ruella.

As for Forte, Ruella stressed in a phone interview that the parting is an amicable one. She characterized Forte’s tenure at the helm of the U.S. business as “an extraordinary three years” of accomplishments, such as building a corporate structure for the American business and expanding the U.S. distribution of diffusion line D&G.

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