In her 2001 book House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder,Madness, Glamour, and Greed, former fashion and business writer Sara Gay Forden tells the story of three generations of the Gucci family. Forden moved to Milan from the US in the late 1980s, a time when many fashion families, including Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace and Gianfranco Ferrè, were expanding their businesses. Maurizio Gucci had similar ambitions, but much less business sense. Not only would he be the last of the Guccis to run the family company, but he would also end up the victim of a shocking crime of passion. In a presentation for her book, Forden explained that in the early 1990s Maurizio Gucci was determined to revive the brand to match his own celebrity image. However, he was always better at presentation than organisation.
Sara Gay Forden (American accent): He was a charming man, a man who really loved grand style: the glasses, the camel coat... he really had an ability to fill people with enthusiasm for his plan. Unfortunately, the results were not in line with the expectations and the spending went out of control. They spent millions of dollars on new offices, a headquarters in Milan, refurbishing the stores; and pretty soon after this golden launch I started to hear rumours, people were leaving, sales were slumping... it was really a fiasco in the making.
A CHANGE OF FORTUNE
With the company in debt, Maurizio sold Gucci to his financial partners, Investcorp, in 1993. For him, it was a relief: recently divorced after a long and bitter separation Maurizio had 120 million dollars in the bank, a luxury apartment in Milan, a new romantic interest, and had founded his own company. Then, the unthinkable happened.
Sara Gay Forden: On the morning of March 27, 1995, he walked to where his offices were and as he greeted the doorman another man came in behind him and firedfour shots, and the last one hit him in the temple . Initially there was a lot of speculation that it had been the mafia and that maybe it was a business deal a business deal gone bad...
PRIDE AND PASSION
For two years the Italian police were baffled. Meanwhile, Maurizio’s ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani and her two daughters moved into Maurizio’s rented apartment in Milan. Patrizia was no ordinary homemaker, as Forden explains.
Sara Gay Forden: This is a woman who had come from modest beginnings but her mother had married well, her stepfather was a rich industrialist, and her goal in life had been to marry a rich husband with a good name. Maurizio Gucci fell head over heels in love with Patrizia. He even married her against the objections of his father who felt that she was a gold digger. Not one member of Maurizio’s family came to the wedding.
For over a decade, from 1973 until the mid 1980s, the couple had seemed happy. But Patrizia had wanted more.
Sara Gay Forden: Maurizio had 50 per cent stake in the company by that point, and Patrizia was pushing him to be big in the fashion industry. And she started telling him everything that he was doing was wrong... Even after they were estranged they were just constantly fighting with each other.
DIAMONDS AND FUR
On January 31st 1997, acting on an anonymous tip off, the police arrived at the rented apartment where Patrizia lived.
Sara Gay Forden: Patrizia was living in Maurizio’s luxurious apartment despite the fact that she had a penthouse apartment a few blocks away. The police rang her doorbell at four o’ clock in the morning, and she goes into a dressing room to get ready, and she comes out in a floor-length mink coat, gold and diamond jewellery and she’s carrying a Gucci handbag.
In November 1998, Patrizia Reggiani was sentenced to twenty-nine years in prison for arranging Maurizio’s killing. She was released in October 2016 after serving eighteen years. So why did she do it?
Sara Gay Forden: I came to believe that she really wanted to reclaim the status of ‘la Signora Gucci’, and this was something that she could only do with him out of the picture. He was spending money like it was water. She was terrified that there’d be nothing left for her and her daughters. She had built her hatred of Maurizio into an obsession.