MILAN — Domenico De Sole has received a form of kudos that just might be more gratifying than runway applause, retailers’ orders or consumer purchases.

In an Institutional Investor survey of portfolio managers, analysts and investment houses to determine “Europe’s Best CEOs” in 30 different industries, De Sole ranked highest among all chief executives in the luxury goods industry. Other names on the list familiar to followers of fashion and retail are Jose Maria Castellano, deputy chairman and ceo of Inditex Group, parent of Zara, and Tesco ceo Terry Leahy.

De Sole, speaking in a phone interview, said the designation was particularly gratifying because of its source: the people who put their “money on the line.”

He defined “a passion for execution, a good strategic mind and being a leader for your people” as among the characteristics of good ceo’s and added that a distaste for sycophants is a help as well. He expects his ideas to be questioned so he can make the best decision possible.

“I like to be challenged by people,” he said. He also enjoys one of the perks of his particular sector. “I think that in the luxury goods industry, one of of the pluses is that you deal with a lot of talented people,” he stated. “I’ve been blessed to have [Tom Ford] as my partner.” Ford is vice chairman and creative director of Gucci.

Regarding the other ceo’s who made the magazine’s list, De Sole said he’s particularly impressed with the work of John Browne at British Petroleum (oil and gas category) and Christopher Gent at Vodafone Group (wireless services category).

“I’m proud to be part of a list of strong and confident ceo’s,” he said.

He shrugged off suggestions that this latest honor could bolster his bargaining power in ongoing talks with Gucci’s majority owner, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, regarding the renewal of his employment contract, saying that PPR has “known me for a long time.” He said there was no further news on the state of negotiations.

As reported, Inditex finished eighth out of 550 companies around the world in a survey of investor confidence released last month by Brenda Wood International. Wal-Mart Stores topped that list, and Kohl’s Corp. finished third.

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