BRUSONE QUITS ARMANI; MANAGING DIRECTOR WAS ‘RIGHT HAND’ MAN

Byline: Miles Socha

NEW YORK — In another surprising executive departure at Giorgio Armani SpA, Giuseppe Brusone has resigned as managing director, effective June 30.
Brusone, described by company insiders as “Armani’s right hand,” had been with the company about a dozen years and helped the Italian designer extend his reach beyond Europe and America to a global level.
The company issued a brief statement late Wednesday saying Brusone resigned “to pursue other interests,” but it offered few details.
“Giorgio Armani thanked Mr. Brusone for the many years of successful collaboration that has helped position the Giorgio Armani Group as a leader in the fashion world,” the statement said.
Until a successor is appointed, Brusone’s responsibilities will be assumed by Gianni Gerbotto, deputy managing director, with John Hooks, commercial and marketing director, managing the company’s commercial divisions.
Details about Gerbotto could not immediately be learned, although he is believed to be relatively new to the company. Hooks officially starts at Armani April 2. Previously, he was Jil Sander AG’s international director of sales.
Brusone’s resignation comes only a month after the abrupt resignation of Andrew Grossman, chief operating officer of Giorgio Armani Corp., who had overall responsibility for Armani’s U.S. operations. Grossman had been with the company only 10 months. His successor has not been named.
At the time of his resignation, Grossman officially said he wanted to spend more time with his family, while sources speculated he may have become frustrated in not being allowed to expand Armani’s company-owned retail network.
The reasons behind Brusone’s departure could not immediately be learned. Sources speculated that he wasn’t forced to resign, but may also have become frustrated and had a different strategic vision from Armani’s. Another source said Brusone might simply wish to retire.
“He was a very important player in the organization,” said one source. “Brusone gave the company an organizational base and brought it out on a more international level.”
A low-key executive who only occasionally spoke to the press, Brusone joined Armani from Cidat, the division of GFT SpA that once produced Valentino’s women’s collection. Before that, he worked at the Italian fashion house Basile.
Sources said they would expect Armani to appoint an Italian executive as Brusone’s successor.
Although sources were loath to speculate about any conflict between Brusone and Armani, they acknowledged that Armani is a demanding boss. And the two have clashed over the future of the privately held fashion business, still one of the most profitable in Italy.
In 1997, Brusone was very vocal about the possibility of taking Armani public. In an interview that year with this publication, he said: “The fashion sector has reached a critical point: the confrontation with the global market. And that means grow bigger or disappear.
“It isn’t enough anymore just to have a name. You have to have financial muscle and industrial power on your side as well. For us, it isn’t so much an issue of needing funds to grow with — we can grow with the cash flow we generate.”
Early in 1998, Armani said he decided against an IPO. More recently, he has floated other possibilities to ensure the future of his house. These include selling his 100 percent ownership of the fashion house and staying on as a design consultant. A third option could be a joint venture with another group — possibly even another designer. Last year, Armani ruminated about possibly striking a deal with LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Over the past year, Armani has made several moves to fortify his business, with a view to tighten control over production and plump the company with new, diverse product lines.
Last spring, he announced that he would pull the Le Collezioni women’s license out of GFT, with plans to produce the line in-house as of the fall-winter 2000 season. Then, last fall, he hired longtime Bergdorf Goodman executive Dawn Mello to help him stake his own claim in the lucrative accessories market.
Celebrating 25 years in business this year, Armani is also gearing up to launch cosmetics and home collections this year. Armani also plans to open a major retail complex on Milan’s Via Manzoni that will house Emporio Armani, Armani jeans and Armani Casa stores, in addition to two restaurants.
In 1998, Giorgio Armani SpA’s net income reached approximately $135 million on consolidated sales of approximately $830 million.

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