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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 April, 2004, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Gucci picks ice-cream man as boss
Gucci shop
Unilever has plenty to teach Gucci about marketing
Gucci, one of the best-known luxury goods makers, has chosen the head of Unilever's ice cream and frozen foods division as its new chief executive.

Robert Polet will take over from Domenico De Sole, who is set to leave this year with top designer Tom Ford.

The appointment of Mr Polet has raised some eyebrows because of his lack of experience within the industry.

He has spent the past 26 years at Unilever, a maker of food and soap rather than pricey designer kit.

No bad thing

Some analysts, however, said that Mr Polet's lack of direct fashion experience may not necessarily be a handicap.

They point to his strong grounding in managing brands such as Dove soap and Cornetto ice creams and reckon it may leave him freer and more willing to restructure the company.

Also, he will not be expected to come up with the latest catwalk sensations.

Pinault Printemps Redoute, which took control of Gucci in 1999, already has said that the design side of the business will be looked after by three designers who worked under Mr Ford.

One of Mr Polet's first jobs will be to shore up the company's management, some of whom are set to follow Mr De Sole and Mr Ford out of the door.


The two men failed to agree new contracts last year because of a conflict over control.

The French retailer is thought to be keen to absorb the Italian firm, something Mr De Sole wanted to avoid.

Model in Gucci dress
Gucci says its designs are still in safe hands

The two had insisted that they would only stay at Gucci beyond 2004 if PPR gave them full autonomy.

The split was a blow to Gucci as many investors saw Mr De Sole and Mr Ford as the company's saviours after it came close to bankruptcy during the 1990s.

Today's news may also weigh on shares.

"The risk is that the market takes this a bit negatively since it had perhaps been expecting someone with a bit of experience in luxury," said one industry analyst.

"But in absolute terms, it may not be negative in itself and it really depsneds on the person. They may want to restructure and it's not necessarily a bad thing to have someone who has worked for another brand."

Shareholders still have to approve the appointment and PPR said it planned to convene a meeting as soon as possible.

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