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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Pinault also praised how Polet nurtured an entrepreneurial spirit, even within a large conglomerate like Unilever.

“He behaves as if he’s managing his own money. It’s not so often that you find this kind of person,” he said.

Weinberg declined to identify what candidates were on PPR’s hit list, which began with some 50 names from around the world. He would only say that he was amused by some of the names floated in the press, since many of them were not contacted. The list of speculated successors included the likes of Autogrill’s Gianmario Tondato Da Ruos, PepsiCo.’s Indra Nooyi, Marks & Spencer’s Vittorio Radice and Luc Vandevelde and Estée Lauder’s Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne.

Pinault and Weinberg, who headed the search along with Adrian Bellamy, confirmed that they had narrowed the search to two executives over the past few months.

Although Weinberg has acknowledged that he is new to the luxury industry — and he’s taken some lumps from Tom Ford and others — he stands firm in his conviction that industry-specific experience is not a prerequisite.

“I always smile when I hear people talk about luxury-goods specialists. For example, there are very good people in fragrance who know nothing about fashion,” he said.

Weinberg’s viewpoint has been disputed by Tom Ford. While the designer declined to comment on Polet’s appointment, he criticized Weinberg’s lack of experience in luxury goods in a WWD interview in March. “Serge does a fine job at what he does, but he has absolutely no experience in the luxury industry, in the fashion industry,” Ford said during the question-and-answer session. “But PPR paid a lot of money for Gucci. It’s their company and they can run it as they choose.

“I have absolutely nothing against Serge as a person. I like him a lot. But I think that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The path Serge will choose will be his own, and I wish him the best of luck. It’s not the path I would have chosen.”

In an internal memo sent to Gucci staff obtained by WWD, Polet said: “My entire career has been with Unilever, but I feel everything I have done in my 26 years there has groomed me for this job. If I could sum up the key aspects of my career, I would say: People, brands and innovation.”
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