L.A. LAW: François Pinault watchers may have interpreted his absence from the Gucci show in Milan earlier this month as a sign of chilling relations with creative director Tom Ford. Instead, Pinault was in court — and it wasn’t jury duty. A spokeswoman for the French billionaire, whose PPR distribution group controls Gucci, confirmed that he was in Los Angeles on Feb. 28 giving testimony before a grand jury in the ongoing investigation into Pinault’s dealings in the Executive Life affair. Pinault testified for six hours before a federal prosecutor and a 24-member jury. He is accused of suspect dealings in the way he acquired shares in Executive Life with French bank Credit Lyonnais in the early Nineties. Meanwhile, news of Pinault’s court appearance sparked a flurry of rumors in Europe, including one that had him behind bars. The spokeswoman dismissed them as “totally false.”

This story first appeared in the March 13, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

MAKING AN ENTRANCE: Hundreds of guests stood watch in the central atrium of the Bon Marche department store Tuesday night, waiting for the arrival of Karl Lagerfeld at a party to inaugurate an exhibition there devoted to him. And there was no mistaking when the designer arrived — two-and-a-half hours late. Spying his signature white ponytail, the crowd erupted into spontaneous applause, with the paparazzi jesting: “The King has arrived!” and “Your majesty!” Television crews scrambled to meet Lagerfeld as he stepped off the first flight of escalators, causing a hazardous logjam for the huge entourage trailing behind him. When the designer finally made it upstairs, guests including Linda Evangelista, Helena Christensen, Audrey Marnay and Hedi Slimane struggled to get near him. Holding court in the centerpiece of the exhibition, a cube of projection screens for various videos about the designer, the scene resembled a photo studio more than a party. “Finally, someone without a camera,” Lagerfeld quipped when he finally escaped the flashbulbs to greet the model Mariacarla Boscono and scores of other well-wishers.

ITALIAN MERRY-GO-ROUND?: Despite a firm denial from Fendi, rumors are circulating here that Giancarlo Di Risio, the company’s chief executive officer, is headed to Benetton, to replace Luigi De Puppi. As reported, De Puppi will resign his position as managing director in May. Di Risio joined Fendi a year ago.

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