MILAN — Donatella Versace’s decision to enter rehab for drug-related issues isn’t likely to have a major impact on the company that bears her family’s name or its plans to seek a minority investor, according to industry observers.

A Versace spokesman confirmed a report in Wednesday’s New York Post that the designer entered a rehab center last month for substance abuse, but declined to say where.

“This is a private matter and we hope the press respects it as such. It’s business as usual and we look forward to presenting the spring-summer 2005 collection in Milan on Oct. 2,” he said.

The Versace brand has been built on rock ‘n’ roll and glitz, and Donatella Versace has epitomized that image as much as anyone, mingling with celebrities such as Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé Knowles, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and partying in almost every major city around the globe. Known for not crossing the threshold of the Via Gesú palace, the company’s Milan headquarters, until the lunch hour, her high-living style has become so renowned that “Saturday Night Live” turned it into a running comic gag, starring Maya Rudolph as the designer.

And fashion and drugs have long been linked, from the days of Halston through to Calvin Klein’s substance abuse problems. Calvin Klein’s former chairman Barry Schwartz, who is now chairman of the New York Racing Association, said Wednesday, “Obviously the first step to solving a problem is recognizing it. The good thing is she’s getting treatment. It will probably make her a better executive because she will be able to function a little bit more.

“We went through a difficult time but certainly Calvin came back and stronger than ever,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz also noted rehab is often a 30- to 40-day treatment, which isn’t a great amount of time in the grand scheme of things, especially in large well-staffed organizations. “I’m sure she’s got capable people working in the business. Everyone will pull that much harder to cover for her until she comes back.”

Still, Versace’s decision to check into rehab comes as the company remains in turnaround mode and shortly after a new shareholding structure took effect. Donatella’s daughter Allegra Versace Beck turned 18 on June 30 and gained control of the 50 percent stake in the house left to her by her late uncle Gianni Versace, who was murdered in Miami Beach in 1997. The remaining 50 percent is split between Donatella, who owns 20 percent, and her brother Santo, who owns the remaining 30 percent.

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