Maurizio Gucci remains undoubtedly one of the most controversial family members and one whose life was marked and shaken by contrasting and conflicting passions.

Gucci, whose mother, Alessandra, died in 1954, when he was five, deeply respected and loved his father, Rodolfo, but married against Rodolfo’s wishes; he was driven by a strong passion for the company and worked to restore the brand’s heritage, but he almost drove it into bankruptcy. His father taught him to value money, but he lived extravagantly, spending above his means; he was a businessman, but also very superstitious, surrounding himself with talismans and fortune-tellers.

He was linked to the Mafia, to an exiled terrorist, was accused of tax evasion and of forging his late father’s signature on documents that transferred ownership of the company, but was acquitted of all accusations.

Ultimately, in 1985, Gucci left Patrizia Reggiani, the woman he fought so hard to marry — a decision with tragic consequences, as Reggiani organized Gucci’s murder in 1995, driven by greed and revenge. (For more, see page 30.)

Gucci store veteran Franco Gittardi said Maurizio changed radically when he met Reggiani.

“Until then, Maurizio was deeply influenced by his father, who wanted him to work his way up the company, wrapping packages at the Milan store and running errands, and would literally sit at the table when Rodolfo would tell him,” said Gittardi, recalling dinners chez Gucci. Rodolfo Gucci thought Reggiani was after his son’s money and never gave his consent to the 1972 marriage, although father and son later reconciled.

A second, pivotal turning point for Maurizio was his inheritance of 50 percent of the company in 1983, which triggered endless disputes and struggles for power with his uncle Aldo and his cousins Paolo, Giorgio and Roberto. Gucci’s initial partnership with the Arab fund Investcorp in 1989 eventually led to the family’s break from the company in 1993.

“Maurizio Gucci was very proud and wanted to bring luster back to the brand, while the rest of the family wanted to exploit it as much as possible, but he was not a practical man,” said Giorgio Maugini, general manager of Community, an Italian consultant, who worked with Gucci when he was chairman of the company. “He had a vision, but it was difficult to handle the different ambitions, to choose the right collaborators and remain a leader. And there were too many people who had personal interests at stake.”

This story first appeared in the June 5, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In his final efforts to control the company, Gucci became “pretty desperate, and surrounded himself with dubious people,” according to former Gucci chief Domenico De Sole. Case in point: Delfo Zorzi, an Italian neo-Fascist suspected of a murderous bombing in Milan in 1969, apparently lent Gucci 30 million Swiss francs in 1993 to help pay off his debts. At the time, Gucci famously said he found the funds after his dead father came to him in a dream and told him to look for the money under the floorboards of his St. Moritz chalet. Later, Reggiani claimed she had helped him find the money.

At the time of his death, Gucci, who is survived by two daughters, Alessandra and Allegra, was working on a series of projects that included the creation of a tourist port in the Spanish island of Majorca, a door-to-door food sales business, promotion of Venice abroad and a casino in Switzerland.

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