How does a poor Italian bellhop become the genius behind one of the biggest luxury brands in the world? Meet Guccio Giovanbattista Giacinto Dario Maria Gucci. The rest is history! Read on….
Guccio Gucci (Image credit: Wikipedia)
In the ’70s, the House of Gucci was all about high fashion, intrigue and murder- the fashion industry’s crime of the century (until the unfortunate murder of Gianni Versace). On November 24th (Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S.), the highly anticipated film “House of Gucci” will be released in theaters. The film stars Adam Driver and Lady Gaga, (as they play Mauricio and Patrizia Gucci) and details the rise of Gucci and the real-life murder of Maurizio Gucci at the hand of a hitman – hired by the fashion heir’s ex-wife, Patrizia Reggiani. While fashionistas and Gucci fans eagerly await the Ridley Scott film, members of the Gucci family have expressed disgust over the film. Sorpresa?
“They are stealing the identity of a family to make a profit, to increase the income of the Hollywood system,” Patrizia Gucci’s, Maurizio’s cousin, complained to Associated Press of director Ridley Scott and his collaborators. She is particularly piqued at Al Pacino playing her grandfather Aldo, son of the fashion house’s founder, Guccio. She claimed that “House of Gucci” based on Sara Forden’s 2000 book “The House of Gucci” — portrays her grandfather as “fat, short, with sideburns, really ugly. Shameful … ”
But nothing is as shameful as the actual events that inspired the film. A story so wild that not even Hollywood could have imagined. On March 27, 1995, Maurizio Gucci was excited to marry his girlfriend of four years, Paola Franchi, a beautiful artist with whom he shared a luxurious apartment on Milan’s exclusive Corso Venezia. That day was like any other as the fashion heir walked to his office in a designer suit and camel coat. He nodded to his doorman, and then bam, the first bullet hit Maurizio in the back. Another silenced bullet struck him below the waist and a third bullet glanced his arm. He fell to the ground and took the final hit, a fatal shot to the skull by an unseen shooter.
The doorman sat dazed on a step as he had also been hit by a bullet in the arm. Police rushed to the scene, but the killer got away.
“Never before do I remember a murder like that, right in the center of Milan,” Maurizio Manca, owner of the city’s Bozart Jewelry, told The Post. “It would be like seeing the president of Tiffany killed in front of his store on Fifth Avenue.”
THE HISTORY OF THE GUCCI FAMILY
As a young man Guccio Gucci worked as a bellhop at London’s Savoy Hotel. It was there that he was inspired by the elegant suitcases of affluent travelers and so in 1921 he unveiled his own luggage company in Florence. Gucci expanded to handbags and other accessories in the ’30s, followed by clothing with the 1968 opening of his Beverly Hills boutique. By then, Gucci’s infamous double-G logo counted Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and Princess Grace of Monaco as devotees. A true rags-to-riches story.
Although Guccio Gucci built himself a fashion empire, throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s family drama would fracture the business. Two of Guccio Gucci’s grandsons tried to introduce spinoff brands to capitalize on the Gucci name. A third grandson, Maurizio, the only child of Rodolfo Gucci (one of Guccio’s five sons), inherited his father’s majority stake in the Gucci company. Naturally, this led to family infighting, resulting in Maurizio’s public legal battle against his uncle, Aldo Gucci, contesting for full control of the company. Then, in the early Eighties, Maurizio gained full control of the Gucci brand.
“Maurizio was not a businessman; he was a playboy,” Karen Homer, author of Little Book of Gucci, told The Post. He became known for his excessive spending — buying homes around the world and a wooden yacht once owned by shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos.
In 1972, Mauricio Gucci married Patrizia Reggiani, who came from a “humble background,” according to Luisa Zargani, the Women’s Wear Daily bureau chief in Milan.
Maurizio’s new bride loved spending as much as he did. Patrizia quickly became known as “Lady Gucci,” embracing her new life and embodied the brand. She became most eccentric as she swanned around in mink coats, dripping with diamonds, and traveling with the jet-set. “She loved jewelry and big furs. You could call her a social climber,” said Zargani. “She attended the big parties but was not sophisticated or refined. It was all about appearances.”
The lavish couple had two daughters together, Alessandra and Allegra. But in 1985, Maurizio left on a business trip, and never came home. He had left Reggiani for a younger woman named Paola Franchi. His ex-wife Patrizia reportedly received a half a million dollars a year in alimony as part of their divorce settlement.
But Maurizio Gucci was not a businessman and soon the Gucci brand was in major financial trouble. In 1988, the Gucci heir sold 48.8% of the company to Bahrain-based Investcorp, which also owned Tiffany & Co. But Mauricio kept up his lavish lifestyle and continued to spend freely on Gucci headquarters in Florence and Milan. By 1993, Maurizio sold the remaining shares to Investcorp — netting himself a payout of $170 million and severing family ties with the company his grandfather founded.
After Maurizio’s assassination on March 27, 1995, gossip circulated around Milan’s high society that perhaps his murder was tied to his financial troubles. “There were thoughts that he had borrowed money from the wrong people,” said Zargani. “They thought that maybe it was a vendetta.”
Two years later and the search for Maurizio’s killer had hit a dead end. But in 1997, a man named Gabriele Carpanese reached out to detectives with information— and a tale of jealousy, money and murder began to unwind.
Gabriele Carpanese claimed that Patrizia Reggiani wanted revenge on her ex-husband; the man who had catapulted her into Milan’s high society, lavished her with over-the-top gifts and then broke her down through their divorce. The final insult to Patrizia’s ego was when Maurizio sold the Gucci brand. “She was livid when he sold out to Investcorp,” author Homer told The Post. Even as his ex, “it took her crown away. She was not the Gucci Princess anymore.”
Reggiani did not hide her anger towards Maurizio. According to The House of Gucci, she told her maid: “If it’s the last thing I do, I want to see him dead.” She stated similar emotions to an attorney and even blamed her ex for a brain tumor she’d been diagnosed with, which caused crippling headaches and left her afflicted with seizures. She allegedly asked a butcher about killing Maurizio.
According to Carpanese, Reggiani had confided in psychic Pina Auriemma, who was staying at Hotel Adry, the two-star Milan hotel where Carpanese lived.
He claimed the women planned to kill Maurizio and that Auriemma enlisted the help of the building’s doorkeeper, Ivano Savioni, who, in turn, introduced them to a getaway driver (Orazio Cicala, a restaurant manager) and a hitman Benedetto Ceraulo, a cash-strapped pizzeria owner. According to The House of Gucci, Carpanese claimed that Reggiani put up $375,000 for the assassination of Maurizio.
In court, Reggiani admitted to paying Auriemma the money, but contended that it was not for murder; she claimed that Auriemma set up the hit independently and threatened to frame Reggiani if she didn’t pay them. But, Reggiani inconsistently added: “It was worth every lira.”
Even after the murder on her ex-husband, Reggiani resumed living the life of Lady Gucci, and her co-conspirators felt short-changed. When they asked for more money she refused and so a frustrated Savioni complained to Carpanese, who immediately went to the cops.
Carpanese was now involved and offered to introduce the gang to a Medellín drug cartel enforcer who could apply pressure to Reggiani about extra money, the team jumped at the chance. But there was just one problem, the enforcer Capanese introduced them to was really an undercover cop and secretly recorded their confessions.
Thanks to Carpanse, all five collaborators in the Gucci murder were arrested. But Lady Gucci — now nicknamed “Black Widow ” by the Italian dailies — made the biggest splash at police headquarters. According to The House of Gucci, she wore a floor-length mink and glittering diamonds as police escorted her from her home.
All were found guilty. Reggiani and Cicala were sentenced to 29 years in prison each, while hitman Ceraulo was sentenced to life in prison. Auriemma got 24 years and Savioni received 26.
Patrizia Reggiani served 16 years of her term. Her attorney Danilo Buongiorno attributed the early release in 2014 to “good conduct” and health reasons. Remorse, evidently, had nothing to do with it.
When an Italian televison crew asked Reggiani why she hired a hit man instead of killing Maurizio herself, the feisty Black Widow replied: “My eyesight is not so good. I didn’t want to miss.”
To this day Patrizia Reggiani claims that she is innocent and was set up by the psychic. She even told Buongiorno, “I’m not guilty, but I’m not innocent.”
Buongiorno told The Post: “She thought she had made some mistakes in her life. But she always said she did not kill her husband … She always said she did not pay anyone to commit the murder.”
After prison, Patrizia Reggiani became a design consultant for the jewelry company Bozart. “She was like a queen before she entered jail and she was like a queen when she came out,” Bozart Jewelry owner Manca said of Reggiani. “When we met [in 2014], it was like a flashback to the ’80s.”
Reggiani worked for the jewelry brand until 2017 when she had a falling-out with Manca. “She lives in Milan, in her mother’s house and does not work anymore,” Manca said of Patrizia Reggiani who is now 72 years old. “I miss her a little bit.”
Reggiani told the Guardian that she is estranged from children, Alessandra and Allegra, both now married. In 2017 an Italian court ruled that Reggiani is entitled to some $1 million per year, which Maurizio agreed to provide her in 1993, from his estate.
“She lost everything when she had her husband killed,” Women’s Wear Daily’s Zargani said. “She did everything she could to be part of the jet-set world, and through the killing of her husband, she lost that.”
After all that has transpired between Patrizia Reggiani and the Gucci family and brand, Reggiani had the nerve to say she should be hired by the Gucci brand. “They need me,” she told La Republica. “I still feel like a Gucci — in fact, the most Gucci of them all.”
Want more Gucci drama? Check out the Wondery podcast, Even the Rich. Their three-part series, Murder in the House of Gucci, is lots of fun!