At the time of Polet’s appointment last April, PPR ceo Serge Weinberg declared, “We were not looking for someone to do the job of our chief executives,” alluding to the prowess of Santucci, Lee and its other brand chiefs.
Santucci’s departure is the latest in a string of defections from Gucci, and industry sources suggest there could be more as PPR brass assert a new corporate culture and turn up the pressure for a quick return on its investment. It paid 7.2 billion euros, or about $9 billion, for the world’s third-largest luxury group.
Santucci was said to already be feeling the heat for sales and profitability figures PPR deemed insufficient for a cash cow like Gucci, which compensates for losses at money-losing acquisitions such as Boucheron, YSL and Balenciaga, as reported.
Polet, who joined Gucci Group as ceo last July from Unilever’s frozen foods division, has yet to table his strategic plan for the luxury conglomerate. It is still expected in December.
But sources said that improving financial performance in all corners of the company is already a primary strategy. The emerging brands, which include Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, already have been told to find sponsorships, do joint ventures or sign licenses to bring them quickly into the black.
“They’re trying to erase what they see as the excesses of the Tom and Dom era,” one source said.
Although Santucci’s exit seemed sudden, he had been working at Gucci without a signed employment contract since late last year. According to sources, Santucci had initially delayed its renewal in the wake of Ford’s and De Sole’s planned exits, especially since he had once been considered a potential successor to De Sole.
But then Weinberg was said to have held up the process.
“Serge never decided — and he delayed and delayed on signing that contract,” one source said. “He eventually offered Santucci a new contract, but by that time, Santucci was furious about the delay and about the terms of the deal. The offer PPR was making Santucci was a silly one.”