Maurizio Gucci, the grandson of the house’s founder Guccio, was shot dead outside his Milan office. Though it took two years to bring his killers to justice, his ex-wife was suspected from the very beginning. The Gucci family has always been known for its sordid scandals, but this was its biggest yet.
On the morning of March 27, 1995, Maurizio Gucci arrived at his private office at Via Palestro 20 in Milan. As he ascended the front steps with a stack of magazines in hand, he greeted the building’s doorman Giuseppe Onorato. Onorato was sweeping leaves outside, when Maurizio was suddenly gunned down by four bullets – three to his back and one to his head. The only witness to the murder, Onorato was shot twice himself but survived. He recounts, “I was cradling Mr. Gucci’s head. He died in my arms.” (From article by The Guardian) Maurizio Gucci was just 46 years old.
As there were many with motive to kill the last heir to the Gucci fortune, the carabinieri immediately had a long list of suspects, including the other Gucci men, who Maurizio had ousted from the once family-owned brand just three years prior. They quickly cleared them of any involvement, however, and focused their investigation on Maurizio’s scorned ex-wife.
Maurizio Gucci, Photo by AP for The Guardian
Maurizio Gucci met Patrizia Reggiani at a party for the Milanese elite. While he was immediately attracted to the Elizabeth Taylor look-alike, the feeling was not mutual. Reggiani recalls, “He was just the quiet boy whose teeth crossed over at the front.”(From article by The Guardian) Using his family’s wealth, he relentlessly chased her until she agreed to marry him. Despite the disapproval of his father, Rodolfo (the son of founder Guccio Gucci), Maurizio and Reggiani wed in 1972. Believing she was only after the prestige of the Gucci family name, Rodolfo did not warm up to Reggiani until she gave birth to the couple’s two daughters Alessandra and Allegra. For about a decade, Maurizio and Reggiani lived in upper-class marital bliss, owning multimillion-dollar properties in New York City, Saint Moritz, Acapulco, and Connecticut, sailing to private islands on their 64m yacht the Creole, socializing with Jackie O. and the Kennedys, and throwing extravagant, color-themed parties. But, when Rodolfo died in 1983, leaving his only child his 50% stake in Gucci, their marriage began to deteriorate.
Dubbed ‘Lady Gucci,’ Patrizia Reggiani was used to advising her husband on all Gucci matters; however, as soon as he gained more control, she claims that he completely stopped listening to her. Due to the over-licensing of its ‘GG’ logo and mass production, Gucci was no longer as exclusive as it had once been. Planning to restore it to its former glory, Maurizio Gucci plotted against his uncle Aldo and cousins, who owned the remaining half of the brand together. With the help of Investcorp, a Bahrain-based investment company, he bought them out for around $135 million and became CEO. Amidst all of this, Maurizio officially left Reggiani. Growing tired of her incessant meddling, he packed an overnight bag, said he was going on a quick business trip to Florence, and never returned.
As their divorce dragged on, Gucci continued to lose millions under Maurizio’s mismanagement. Eventually, just 18 months before his murder, Maurizio was forced to sell his shares to Investcorp. He became a very rich man, earning between $150 million and $200 million, but divested the family of any involvement in what was once its own brand.
Patrizia Reggiani was furious. Even as his ex-wife, her entire identity was centered around ‘being a Gucci.’ She sulks, “I was angry with Maurizio about many, many things at that time. But above all, this. Losing the family business. It was stupid. It was a failure. I was filled with rage, but there was nothing I could do. He shouldn’t have done that to me.”(From article by The Guardian)
Maurizio Gucci and Patrizia Reggiani as a couple in the 80's. Photo by Rex Shutterstock
The Gucci family (Maurizio, Patrizia and their two daughters Alessandra and Allegra. Photo by Armando Rotoletti / Luzphoto
Photo by Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images
At around the same time, their divorce was finally settled. Patrizia Reggiani was awarded almost $1 million a year in alimony, which she scoffed was “a mere bowl of lentils.” (From article by The Cut, New York)
To make matters even worse, Maurizio Gucci had already moved on with a former flame from his past. He had been living with Paola Franchi for five years before his murder, and the two were rumored to be planning a wedding. Patrizia Reggiani was jealous another woman was about to become ‘Mrs. Gucci’ and concerned her daughters would lose out on their inheritance if Maurizio and Franchi ever had children of their own. She harassed the couple, threatening to kill Maurizio over the phone and sending recordings on cassette tapes when he refused to answer her calls.
It was well known that Patrizia Reggiani wanted Maurizio Gucci dead. She had asked her house cleaner – not once, but twice – to help her find a hitman and had even consulted with a lawyer about the legal consequence if she did. While she did admit to this in court and interviews, she downplayed, “I was asking everyone. I would have even asked the butcher; it was a mania with me. But, I didn’t really mean it.” (From article by Highsnobiety)
Paola Franchi, on the other hand, took her threats very seriously and urged Maurizio to hire a bodyguard, but he refused, believing Reggiani would never follow through because of their daughters. Shortly after, he was killed.
Rightfully, there was much suspicion surrounding Patrizia Reggiani; however, the evidence against her was purely circumstantial. She walked free for two years, until one of her former accomplices bragged about his part in the crime to the wrong person.
In the middle of the night on January 8, 1997, the Italian police received an anonymous phone call. Demanding an in-person meeting, the caller was hesitant to disclose too much over the phone. But, his brief utterance, “I’m going to say just one name: Gucci,” was enough to set a sting operation in place.
Ivano Savioni, a hotel porter that had originally been recruited by Reggiani’s close friend and confidante, Pina Auriemma, was again looking for a hitman. This time, someone to intimidate Reggiani – by any means necessary – into paying the rest of what she owed the group that had helped her get rid of Maurizio. An undercover officer pretended to be interested in his offer and secretly recorded their phone conversations, which led the police to finally arrest the five people responsible for the murder of Maurizio Gucci.
And, as if the story did not already read like a dramatic Italian soap opera, they include the aforementioned hotel porter, a psychic, a getaway driver, a hitman, and the former Mrs. Gucci herself.
Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images
In 1994, Pina Auriemma moved in with Patrizia Reggiani to help her write a tell-all book about Maurizio and the Gucci family. Auriemma, also Reggiani’s personal psychic, was struggling financially. In court, Auriemma testified that Reggiani had paid her $365,000 to find a hitman. (To date, Reggiani denies this, claiming that she had no idea Auriemma had actually found a killer and that she was blackmailed into paying her the money.)
Pina Auriemma, in return, reached out to Ivano Savioni, who worked as the porter at a one-star hotel she often stayed at in Milan. Savioni then contacted Orazio Cicala, who acted as the getaway driver the morning of the murder and found the killer. Benedetto Ceraulo, a local pizzeria owner, was the one who ultimately pulled the trigger, ending Maurizio Gucci’s life.
Phew. Still following?
After a high-profile trial, in which Patrizia Reggiani reported to court in head-to-toe Gucci every day, each person was convicted and sentenced to between 25 years and life in prison.
Gucci has never officially commented on the murder, but on the day Patrizia Reggiani (now nicknamed Vedova Nera or ‘Black Widow’) was found guilty, its flagship store in Florence displayed ‘GG’-engraved handcuffs in its front window.
Patrizia Reggiani served 16 years in Milan’s San Vittore prison, which she refers to as her “stay at Vittore Residence.”(From article by The Guardian) In 2014, she was released early on parole. (She had previously been offered parole in 2011, but turned it down, as it was contingent upon her finding a job. Her response: “No, thank you. I’ve never worked in my life.”(From article by Vogue)
Patrizia Reggiani hoped to gain employment at Gucci, asserting, “They need me. I still feel like a Gucci – in fact, the most Gucci of them all.” (From article by The Guardian) But, she was lucky enough to be hired as a design consultant at Bozart(From 'Bozart' website). A costume jewelry company that reached its height when Madonna wore one of its designs in the ‘80s, it was obvious that Bozart only took her on to generate publicity. Reggiani did, after all, permanently delete the company’s entire photo archive due to her unfamiliarity with computers and the modern workplace. As a result, she was tasked with reading fashion magazines to stay up-to-date on trends and wearing its designs as a form of quality control.
In 2017, after three years, Reggiani’s parole ended and she was officially declared a free woman.
Today, she continues to maintain her innocence. Though, she has given a sort-of confession. Shortly after her release, Patrizia Reggiani was ambushed by an Italian television show at her work. When the crew brazenly asked her why she did not just shoot Maurizio Gucci herself, she replied, “My eyesight is not so good. I didn’t want to miss.” (From article by The Guardian.)
Patrizia Reggiani in Milan's San Vittore prison. Photo by The Telegraph
Photo by Pietro S. D'Aprano/Getty Images for Gucci