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Court Rejects Pinault’s Bid For YSL House

PARIS -- Score one for the workers.<P>Plans to transform Yves Saint Laurent's atelier into a multibrand fashion house were thrown into doubt Tuesday when a court here rejected French tycoon Francois Pinault's attempt to force the retiring...

PARIS — Score one for the workers.

Plans to transform Yves Saint Laurent’s atelier into a multibrand fashion house were thrown into doubt Tuesday when a court here rejected French tycoon Francois Pinault’s attempt to force the retiring couturier’s workers to accept the sale of the house for a symbolic euro.

The Tribunal de Grande Instance ordered Pinault’s personal holding company, Artemis, to pay the YSL workers’ committee $1,500 and a separate $950 to YSL Haute Couture, which Pinault still controls.

A spokeswoman for Pinault said he would appeal and pursue the project to turn YSL couture over to French fashion manufacturer Patrice Bouygues.

“Francois Pinault’s wish remains to save the jobs of the workers at Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture,” she said. “If this deal does not proceed, they could risk liquidation and unemployment.”

But the workers and couture boss Pierre Berge delighted in Tuesday’s ruling.

“This is good news,” Berge said. “Our wish is for Artemis to forward a proper, dignified proposition for the workers here.”

In March, Artemis, which has funded the money-losing business since 1999, said it would sell YSL couture to Bouygues for a euro, or about 95 cents. Bouygues, who did not return calls for comment on Tuesday, had planned to remake the storied YSL couture atelier into a multibrand operation by hiring five designers. He also said he would provide services to other couture houses.

But the workers’ committee refused to give its opinion on the takeover deal. Although the committee ultimately cannot block a takeover, French law requires it give an opinion.

In court last week, a lawyer for the workers complained Bouygues spurned demands to provide information on his financial status. They also argued that Bouygues had veiled his intentions for the house.

Except Loulou de la Falaise, who was traveling, all of the 150 workers at YSL couture, and even Berge, attended the hearing.

Olivier Segot, YSL couture’s managing director, said many of the workers wished for new jobs within Gucci Group, which Pinault controls through the retailer Pinault-Printemps-Redoute.

The YSL couture house has been winding down and completing final orders in the wake of the couturier’s retirement. July 31 had been set as the date to transfer the atelier to Bouygues’ control.

Segot said ongoing legal action could postpone the shutdown. But ultimately, he said the prospects for YSL workers are not entirely grim, especially for younger ones.

“They’ve been solicited widely already by other couture houses in Paris,” he said.”