FORD MULLS ADDITION OF OWN LINE, BUT SAYS HE’S STAYING AT GUCCI

Byline: William Middleton — With contributions from James Fallon

PARIS — Tom Ford, the creative director of Gucci, is considering launching his own fashion house, WWD has learned. While Ford would undoubtedly keep his position at Gucci, the designer — largely responsible for the renaissance of the luxury fashion house — would likely base any new business in Paris or New York.
When contacted, Ford — who lives in Paris — didn’t exactly deny the rumors, but he stressed his continuing relationship with Gucci.
“I’m very committed to Gucci for the long term,” he said. “Having my own collection is definitely a possibility sometime in the future. However, I have no concrete plans at this time.”
There has been speculation that Japanese financiers have approached Ford about backing a fashion company with his own name. When asked if he had been contacted by potential investors, Ford replied: “Yes, but as I said before, I’m very committed to Gucci at this time.”
Ford is a major Gucci shareholder, and thanks to the stellar success of the company’s initial public offering last October, he has seen his net worth zoom in the last year.
“It’s to Ford’s advantage to stay and make it successful,” said one source. Only Tuesday, Investcorp, the owner of Gucci, announced it was filing a secondary offering to sell its remaining 52 percent stake in the company. At current prices, the offering could raise about $1.3 billion for Investcorp. This is on top of the $228 million that Investcorp netted from October’s IPO. The Bahrain-based investment bank paid $246 million for its 100 percent stake in Gucci.
Gucci executives are planning a “road show” to sell the new stock offering to investment analysts in Europe and the U.S. in the next few weeks, and Ford is expected to attend some of the presentations. According to the prospectus for the newest offering, sales have surged 90 percent over the last year to $500 million. Net earnings have increased fivefold to $81.4 million.
Ford, an American from Santa Fe, joined Gucci in 1990 at the invitation of Dawn Mello, who was then creative director of the company. When Mello left Gucci a few years later to return to Bergdorf Goodman, Ford took over the creative direction of the company. He previously had relatively low-level design positions at Perry Ellis and Cathy Hardwick. But, starting with his “mod” collection in March 1995, Ford quickly made Gucci one of the hottest fashion houses in Milan.
Suddenly, Gucci clothes and accessories, which hadn’t had prominence since the 1960s, were on the covers of magazines and were being worn by rock stars like Madonna. The intense press attention was followed by a surge in sales, which Investcorp was quick to take advantage of.
Ford is said to be very popular with the executives of the parent company, and he is rumored to be paid $2 million a year in addition to stock options.
There has even been speculation that Investcorp might be interested in backing Ford in his new venture.
Domenico De Sole, Gucci’s president and chief executive officer, stressed that Ford has no plans to leave the company, but he also claimed that Ford has no plans to do his own collection.
“I have spoken with Tom, and he remains totally committed to Gucci,” De Sole said. “He has absolutely no plans to open his own collection. Tom is a key member of our management team and has a substantial ownership position in Gucci.”
De Sole said Gucci and Ford have a long-term agreement — which he described as several years in duration.

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