By  on July 25, 2007

LONDON — Gianluca Brozzetti, group chief executive of Asprey, has abruptly departed the company he's run for the last six years.

On Tuesday, an Asprey spokesman would confirm only that Brozzetti, who served as chief executive officer since 2001 and helped rescue the company from bankruptcy last year, had stepped down.

An industry source close to Brozzetti, however, said the split with shareholders Sciens Capital Management LLC, a New York-based private equity firm, and Plainfield Asset Management LLC, a Greenwich, Conn., hedge fund, had been "perfectly amicable." Another industry source said Brozzetti and the chief shareholders "agreed to disagree, and decided to go their separate ways."

The sources said Brozzetti resigned last Friday. Brozzetti, who is also an Asprey shareholder, did not return phone calls Tuesday.

As recently as this month, Brozzetti talked to WWD about his plans for the luxury goods brand. He called Asprey a "hidden jewel," and said he planned to open stores in Moscow and New Delhi, expand further into Asia, and build up the product lines with creative director Hakan Rosenius.

Earlier this year, Asprey unveiled the first ready-to-wear line designed by Rosenius. In the spring, the company opened a new shop on Madison Avenue, between 70th and 71st Streets in Manhattan.

Speaking like a proud parent, Brozzetti told WWD on July 2: "Five years ago, there were only two points of sale, now there are 20. We have a strategy of catching up with other big luxury brands, but we have to be realistic."

For the last fiscal year ended March 31, Asprey's sales were $42 million, and while Brozzetti said they were good results, he admitted, "There is still a long way to go."

An experienced fashion and luxury goods executive, Brozzetti took over the ceo's role at Asprey & Garrard in 2001, after the company was purchased by Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou in 2000. Before that, he was president and ceo of Louis Vuitton.

Prior to Vuitton, Brozzetti worked for Bulgari Group for 13 years, first as executive director of its watch and jewelry division and from 1993 as executive vice president of its fragrance division. His career has covered various positions at Procter & Gamble Co., McKinsey & Co. and the Gucci Group.But it was his role as ceo of A&G Group, the now-dissolved parent of the Asprey and Garrard brands, that tested his managerial mettle. Although Stroll and Chou embarked on their Asprey and Garrard project with much fanfare — and a lot of splashy spending — the brands never turned a profit. In fact, they were ever-deepening money pits.

Stroll and Chou brought in new shareholders, including Edgar Bronfman Jr., Morgan Stanley Private Equity and the TAG Group to keep the companies afloat, but to no avail. In 2005, just a year after Asprey opened a huge flagship on Fifth Avenue in New York and reopened on Bond Street — at 40,000 square feet, it was Europe's largest luxury goods store — the company's shareholders were already bickering about who would make the next cash injection. They began quietly shopping the brands around.

While the shareholders argued, it was Brozzetti who took over the rescue mission. He and his team got Deloitte on board and, with the blessing of HSBC and the other banks, put A&G Group into receivership. Brozzetti sold the brands in a debt-for-equity swap, with the value of the business effectively nil. Sciens Capital Management and Plainfield Asset Management paid an estimated $80 million to $100 million for both brands. Three days later, Asprey International, the newly minted parent of both brands, spun off Garrard to Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Companies for an estimated $20 million to $30 million.

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