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The Ice Man Cometh: PPR Dips Into Unilever For New CEO of Gucci

Pinault-Printemps-Redoute on Wednesday named Robert Polet as the new president and chief executive officer of Gucci Group.

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François-Henri Pinault, chairman of Artemis and luxury’s newest titan in training, amplified Weinberg’s comments. “The press was always talking about [Burberry ceo] Rose Marie Bravo. [She] is one of the best brand ceo’s in the world, but she has no experience running a group,” he said, referring to the fact that Burberry is made up of only a single brand.

While some observers had speculated that De Sole’s successor would have a reduced strategic role, Weinberg and Pinault stressed that Polet would play a vital part in building a young multibrand company — forged in 1999 when PPR injected billions into Gucci.

“It’s the Bernard Arnault position,” Pinault said, referring to the head of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

“He will be the full ceo of this company, with full authority,” Weinberg added.

Still, the appointment raised eyebrows around the world. Pinault took some ribbing on Wednesday in stride when, in a post-meeting scrum, one Dutch journalist asked him if Polet would introduce a Gucci ice cream.

“Yes, a G-G ice cream,” Pinault said with a laugh, referring to the Italian brand’s famous logo.

But during interviews, both men downplayed the specter of any culture clash, given that Polet is more familiar with the frozen food aisle than the fashion runways of Paris and Milan.

“He’s very aware of the specificities of the luxury industry, which is the creative part,” Pinault said. In fact, he said he was impressed that the first question Polet posed at their initial interview was about the designers at Gucci, who include Alexander McQueen, Nicolas Ghesquière and Stella McCartney.

Also a keen collector of fine watches, Pinault noticed approvingly that the executive was wearing a model by Patek Phillipe.

Weinberg acknowledged that executives from outside of fashion have had a mixed track record of success in the industry. But he stressed that “business life” involves risk.

“We have to design our own road and not follow the tracks of everyone else,” he said. “If you want to be a leader in the industry, you should really think outside of the box and about what makes sense.”
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