This story first appeared in the July 20, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
PARIS — Gucci named Mark Lee its chief executive officer on Tuesday, making official what has been his de facto role since last November.
Robert Polet, president and ceo of parent Gucci Group and chairman of its management board, characterized the appointment in a statement as fitting with the “mission to further strengthen Gucci’s position as a luxury and fashion leader.”
Lee, 42, moved to the Gucci brand as president and managing director last Nov. 2 after the ouster of Giacomo Santucci, who has joined Dolce & Gabbana as commercial, licenses and retail director. Lee had been ceo of Gucci Group’s Yves Saint Laurent fashion house.
Since joining Gucci Group as president and ceo last July from Unilever’s frozen foods division, Polet had also held the title of ceo of the Gucci division as an interim measure to help him acclimatize to the luxury sector. He relinquishes only the Gucci division ceo title and continues as president, ceo and chairman of the management board of Gucci Group.
Polet and Lee were traveling in Asia on Tuesday and were not available for comment.
Lee joined Gucci in 1996 and has worked in different capacities there and at YSL. The last nine months have been particularly eventful at Gucci, as Lee oversaw the promotion of Frida Giannini to creative director for women’s ready-to-wear, which meant the exit of Alessandra Facchinetti only two weeks after her second runway show in the post-Tom Ford era.
A formidable merchant, Lee oversaw with Giannini the recent launch at retail of La Pelle Guccissima, a range of leather goods and accessories intended to boost a core category based on hard-to-counterfeit relief and embossing techniques.
Gucci Group will report its second-quarter sales on July 28 in tandem with parent PPR. In the first quarter, strong sales of leather goods propelled sales at the Italian company up 14.2 percent to 429.9 million euros, or $564.2 million at average exchange rates.
Polet has set a goal to double revenues of the Gucci brand in seven years, which would take it to more than $4 billion. As Polet unveiled his strategic plan last December, he said the boost would be accomplished by pushing into fast-growing Asia and emerging markets such as China and India and by leveraging the wholesale business and underdeveloped categories like fine jewelry.
Lee, born and raised in San Francisco, started his fashion career at Saks Fifth Avenue as an assistant buyer of European collections.
His résumé also includes stints at Cidat U.S.A., Giorgio Armani and Jil Sander America Inc.