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What Really Happened During the Infamous Murder of Italian Fashion Icon Maurizio Gucci
Maurizio Gucci, who hailed from one of fashion's most famous families, was gunned down on the steps of his office in 1995.
When Maurizio Gucci was gunned down on the steps of his Milan office on March 27, 1995, there were no shortage of suspects.
The one-time heir of a fashion empire had been in a bitter feud with his famous family over the handling of the company. Financial struggles of his own had forced him to borrow $40 million from a man accused of being a terrorist, and then, of course, there was the surging anger of a woman scorned, according to Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.
Maurizio’s ex-wife, Patrizia Reggian, had been cast aside by Maurizio and forced to give up her close ties to the iconic Gucci brand, leaving her enraged.
But just who could have ordered the hit on the charming Italian businessman?
The sensational murder served as the inspiration for the 2021 crime drama House of Gucci, starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver, and has continued to captivate the public decades after the fatal shots rang out.
“When the news came out that Maurizio Gucci had been shot in broad daylight in downtown Milan it was absolutely shocking,” Sarah Gay Forden, a Bloomberg editor and author of the book House of Gucci, told Dateline reporter Natalie Morales.
Who was Maurizio Gucci?
Maurizio had grown up in one of the world’s most famous families. His grandfather Guccio Gucci started the fashion dynasty after opening a small shop in Florence in 1923.
The small factory created by the patriarch and run by the family, soon became a household name in Italy and then around the world.
“They put all passion, all creativity, all energy in their life” into the business, according to Patrizia Gucci, Guccio’s granddaughter and author of the book Gucci.
Maurizio was raised by his father, Rodolpho Gucci, a silent film star who inherited half of the family business after his father, Guccio, died.
While it may have been a family business, it was also rife with family feuds and in-fighting as family members fought to gain control of the fashion dynasty.
Domenico De Sole, an attorney who would later serve as Gucci’s CEO in the late ‘90s, remembers one meeting that got so heated it turned to physical blows between Aldo Gucci — Rodolpho’s brother and the marketing genius of the family who helped grow the brand — and his own son, Paolo Gucci. When Maurizio tried to break up the brawl, he got punched in the face.
“There was a lot of animosity in the family and toward the end it became almost hatred,” De Sole said.
The tension only grew after Rodolpho died in 1983 and Maurizio inherited half of the company, making him the owner of more shares than anyone else.
His angry family responded by filing lawsuits against him and reporting him for tax fraud, which sent him fleeing to the Swiss Alps to avoid arrest. In retaliation, Maurizio and an investment bank convinced one of Aldo’s sons to sell his company shares, securing Maurizio’s role as the undisputed head of the company.
With no more power of their own, the remaining family members begrudgingly agreed to cash in and sell their shares as well.
“There was a sense of betrayal,” Andrea Morante, Maurizio’s one-time business partner and advisor told Dateline: Secrets Uncovered. “Aldo said one thing that I’ll never forget is that, ‘You know, I’m not selling you my shares, but I’m selling you my soul.’”
Aldo died a bitter man in 1990, but tension within the family was still high when Maurizio was gunned down on his way to work, causing prosecutors to wonder whether the family dispute had cost the 46-year-old his life.
Prosecutor Carlo Nocerino said authorities also had to consider whether Maurizio’s financial troubles had earned him an enemy. Maurizio was known for living a lavish and extravagant lifestyle, but by 1993 he owed millions of dollars and the banks threatened to seize his shares of the company if he couldn’t repay his debts.
In a moment of crisis, Maurizio turned to Delfo Zorzi, a millionaire and alleged terrorist who had been accused of helping plan a bomb that killed 16 people. Zorzi agreed to lend Maurizio $40 million in exchange for the right to sell Gucci products in the Far East.
“This whole thing was very strange,” Nocerino said.
Yet when authorities finally tracked Zorzi down, who was later cleared of the terrorism charges, he told them Maurizio had repaid the money and there was no bad blood between the men.
Authorities began to suspect the killing may have been arranged by someone with a much more personal connection to Maurizio, his ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani.
Who was Patrizia Reggiani?
When Maurizio met Reggiani at a party in the 1970s it seemed like love at first sight. Maurizio proposed to the up-and-coming socialite on their second date, but his father was vehemently opposed to the pairing, even going as far as asking the Cardinal of Milan to prevent the marriage.
The Cardinal refused to intervene and although Rodolpho gave his son an ultimatum himself, the wedding went on as planned.
Those who knew the couple say Reggiani, who often adorned herself in jewels, was attracted by the status she gained through the marriage and tried to steer Maurizio’s business decisions for Gucci.
“I could tell she was a person who was very used to getting her way. Certainly she did get her way with Maurizio,” Del Sole said.
“He was somebody special, someone I never thought I would have the honor to have known,” Loud recalled. “I really enjoyed being with him because he was so playful.”
According to Loud, in May 1985, Maurizio had finally “had enough” with the marriage, packed his suitcase, told his wife he was going to Florence for business, and never returned.
“It must have been incomprehensible to her because you know, they had built so much of what they had together, in her mind, and I think that it was also the fact that he couldn’t tell it to her face was also indicative of how far apart they’d already grown,” Forden said.
Although Maurizo wouldn’t formally file for divorce for years, Reggiani knew she was losing her beloved tie to Gucci itself.
Her hate only intensified when she learned that Maurizio was moving in with a new love, Milan interior designer Paola Franchi.
“Her anger starts to grow as she realizes she’s really suffering this deep loss and it’s really a loss of her own identity too because she had come to identify herself with Gucci,” Forden said.
Then in September of 1993, Mauricio lost control of Gucci to an outside party amid a myriad of financial woes.
“For her, it was very personal when he lost Gucci. It was a personal attack to her and all that she had tried to do for him,” Forden said.
On the day of the murder, Reggiani had an alibi, but authorities wondered whether she may have hired someone to take out her ex-husband.
Just one day after his death, Reggiani — whose two daughters had inherited their father’s lavish apartment — tossed out his girlfriend from the property.
Her lawyer also confided to police that she may have been looking for a hitman in the months leading up to his death. Former housekeepers told police they too had been asked to find someone to take Maurizio out amid her fury.
Despite their suspicions, investigators didn’t have enough to tie the crime to Reggiani until an informant called police with a crazy story. The man was staying at a seedy Milan hotel when he was boasting about being a drug dealer from South Africa. In reality, he was just a poor hotel guest, but the clerk at the hotel was impressed by his tall tales and told him he had a role in Maurizio’s murder.
Police began surveilling the clerk and quickly uncovered the rest of the group involved with the hit, including a former pizzeria owner who served as the getaway driver and a mechanic who pulled the trigger.
Even more damaging, they learned the hit had been carried out on behalf of Reggiani. Her best friend Pina Auriemma, who helped connect Reggiani to the men and would later testify against her, told Dateline: Secrets Uncovered that Reggiani had decided to get rid of her ex-husband after learning that he was planning to marry Franchi.
According to Auriemma, Reggiani was furious about losing the social status she once so enjoyed.
“She was more sad and sorry about losing her name,” she said.
After a sensational trial, Reggiani was found guilty of arranging the murder and sentenced to 29 years behind bars. She was released from prison in 2016.
The rest of the crew would serve time too, including Pina, who was released in 2010.