By and  on April 18, 2005

NEW YORK — Domenico De Sole has given up one board seat and gained another.

De Sole on Friday resigned as a director of Procter & Gamble Co. to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest arising from the beauty deal  that he and Tom Ford made Tuesday with rival Estée Lauder Cos. Meanwhile, he has joined the board of Italian men’s wear brand Ermenegildo Zegna SpA.

De Sole, 61, has been a P&G director for four years. A spokeswoman for De Sole stressed that he decided on his own that it would be prudent to resign, rather than risk even the appearance of a conflict. She added that De Sole had informed the board in advance of business partner Tom Ford’s plans to make a deal with Lauder, and he kept the board apprised.

“I have greatly enjoyed my work as a P&G director over the past four years,” De Sole stated Friday.

“I am stepping off the board so I can focus additional time on a variety of businesses, including my new venture with Tom Ford and Estée Lauder. It has been an honor to serve this great company and I remain confident about its future successes.”  

De Sole and Ford formed a luxury design house, called Tom Ford, with De Sole serving as chairman. Several weeks ago, reports were circulating that the partners had first been in talks with P&G about the possibility of doing a Ford beauty brand. Ford, P&G and De Sole’s spokeswoman all have declined comment.

However, P&G accepted De Sole’s resignation Friday afternoon, effective immediately.  “Domenico De Sole has made important contributions to the company and to the work of P&G’s board, for which we are thankful,” said A.G. Lafley, P&G chairman and chief executive officer. “We have benefitted greatly from his wisdom and experience and wish him continued success.”

Meanwhile, Zegna sees De Sole as key to its plans to evolve from a men’s wear leader to a preeminent global brand.

In an exclusive interview at the company’s offices here last week, Zegna co-ceo Gildo Zegna put months of speculation to rest when he simultaneously confirmed the official addition of De Sole to the Zegna board and squelched rumors the De Sole connection would eventually lead to a Zegna-produced Tom Ford men’s collection.

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