PARIS – Mark Lee is trading his Yves Saint Laurent brogues for Gucci loafers.

The formidable YSL executive, who spearheaded a radical and costly overhaul of the French fashion house, will succeed Giacomo Santucci as president and managing director of the $1.9-billion Italian firm, effective Nov. 2.

Moving swiftly to fill a key vacancy – and perhaps stem a further drain of talent from its cash-cow brand – Gucci Group announced Lee’s appointment Monday.

It came less than a week after Santucci’s employment was “terminated” amidst accusations of disloyalty and only a day or so after employees were informed of the forthcoming exit of Tom Mendenhall, who resigned as Gucci’s worldwide merchandising director to join Abercrombie & Fitch, as reported.

Lee, 41, reports to Gucci Group ceo Robert Polet, who also continues as ceo of the Gucci. But sources indicated Lee ultimately will inherit the ceo title once Polet, former honcho of Unilever’s frozen food division, gets better acclimatized to the luxury industry.

Meanwhile, another Gucci Group veteran James McArthur, who oversees the Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga brand, succeeds Lee at YSL in an interim capacity.

In a statement, Polet characterized Lee, who first joined Gucci from Jil Sander in 1996 as worldwide director of its rtw business, as an “obvious” choice.

“He combines a rare set of skills developed over eight years at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent: brand and product sensitivity, retailing experience, merchandising talent and great leadership and vision,” Polet said. “All of these skills were evident during his nearly five years at the helm of Yves Saint Laurent, and they are just what Gucci needs to maintain its position on the cutting edge of luxury.”

This story first appeared in the October 25, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Please check Tuesday’s edition of WWD for a full report.