PrimeTime: Gucci, Glamour and Greed

ByABC News
February 15, 2001, 4:35 PM

Feb. 15 -- Boardroom brawls, executives tossing thousand dollar handbags at each other in fury, boatyard exorcisms, high-speed motorcycle escapes across the Swiss border, a socially ambitious wife, and a hit man who leaves two witnesses to his crime.

It could have been a best-selling novel, although people might not have believed it.

But The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed is a true story based on years of reporting and interviews by author and journalist Sara Gay Forden.

And despite Patrizia Reggiani's 1998 conviction for killing her ex-husband, former Gucci CEO Maurizio Gucci, the saga continues. Next week, Reggiani takes her case to Italy's Supreme Court, where she will be fighting her conviction once again.

A Darker Side

But it wasn't the sensational 1998 murder trial that drew Forden to the Gucci family saga. It was the ill-fated fashion heir Maurizio Gucci himself.

She became enthralled during a 1991 press conference.

"He was so charismatic," she said. "He had a contagious enthusiasm, he was handsome and looked like a movie star. He also had this great mission to bring back the luxury image of his family's business because at the time it was no longer special to have a Gucci handbag. You could get them almost anywhere."

After the press conference, Forden the Milan bureau chief and business correspondent for Women's Wear Daily started hearing that everything was going wrong for the struggling company.

Soon, she learned that company woes were usually family woes and the family was notoriously dysfunctional. In terms of high drama in the world of fashion and finance, the Guccis were hard to beat.

A board meeting in New York ended in a fistfight. A family member then stomped through the busy store below nursing a bleeding scrape on his face. In another well-publicized argument, family members threw Gucci handbags at each other and out a window at one of the company's Italian offices. Gardeners found the bags the next morning and called police, suspecting a robbery. Maurizio Gucci and his wife, Patrizia Regianni, once summoned a psychic to clear their newly purchased boat of evil spirits. Another time, Maurizio escaped Italian police by racing to the Swiss border on a motorbike.