By  on June 5, 2006

Hollywood has nothing on the Guccis when it comes to scandalous sagas.

A cheapened and overexposed brand, legal controversies and family squabbles cast a dark shadow over the Gucci name during the Eighties and threatened to destroy the business.

The second- and third-generation Gucci courtroom and personal scandals would make perfect soap opera material, complete with tragedy and murder — Maurizio Gucci was gunned down in broad daylight in front of his apartment building in 1995.

Gucci’s ex-wife, Patrizia Reggiani, was arrested two years later for commissioning her husband’s murder and is still serving time in Milan’s state prison. Four people out of a textbook crime story and unlikely associates of the jet-setting Reggiani were also arrested as her accomplices: Giuseppina (Pina) Auriemma, a Neapolitan psychic dubbed “the black witch” and confidante of Reggiani; Auriemma’s on-and-off boyfriend, Ivano Savioni, a porter in a one-star Milan hotel; Orazio Cicala, the driver of the getaway car, who had a drug-related criminal record, and Benedetto Ceraulo, who pulled the trigger. The fur-clad, bejeweled Reggiani, who on national TV complained that she could not survive on the $3 million a year Maurizio Gucci was giving her in alimony, was allegedly moved by jealousy, greed, hatred and revenge — sentiments that also inspired Gucci family members to sue and countersue one another through the Eighties.

“They know the money is there and they will always have it. Power, however, they have to take. And they all want it,” said Gerald McKnight, author of the book “Gucci: A House Divided,” in an interview with W in 1987. That year, there were 18 cases involving the family pending in different courts. Aldo Gucci, son of founder Guccio Gucci, had no qualms about firing his son Paolo when the latter wanted to start his own line using a PG logo. In revenge, Paolo Gucci gave his father up to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for tax evasion. As a consequence, at age 81, Aldo Gucci served six months in a Florida federal prison in 1987.

In an effort to control the company, Paolo and his brothers, Giorgio and Roberto, set the fiscal police on their cousin, Maurizio, who was also tried for tax evasion and for forging his late father Rodolfo’s signature on documents that transferred ownership of the company. Maurizio ran off to Switzerland, where he lived in exile for a year, until he was acquitted of those charges in 1989.

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