Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri is stepping down

For years, Marco Bizzarri has been one of the most well-known and respected CEOs in the global luxury business. Bald and boldly fit, he was the architect behind the meteoric success of Gucci, the biggest fashion brand in the stable owned by French conglomerate Kering, which also includes Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent.

But on Tuesday, after a busy year of declining sales and the sudden exit of longtime Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele, it was announced that Mr. Bizzarri is leaving the fashion house after eight years as its leader has been quietly announced by the parent group. The news was buried in the third paragraph of a memo released by Kering that outlined a major organizational shakeup as Chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault attempted to write a new chapter for the fortunes of Gucci and the conglomerate.

In the same announcement, Kering said Yves Saint Laurent CEO Francesca Bellettini would become the conglomerate’s executive vice president of brand development, an upgrade that would require all of Kering’s brand CEOs to report to her and make her one of the luxury industry’s most powerful women. Jean-Marc Duplex, Chief Financial Officer of Kering, will become Executive Vice President, overseeing operations and finance.

“We are building a more robust foundation to fully capture the growth of the global luxury market,” Mr. Pinault said in the note. “I am confident that the changes we are announcing today will set Kering on a path to success and profitable growth over the long term.”

The management shakeup follows the group’s recent purchase of beauty brand Creed, its first major acquisition following its decision in February to create Separate beauty section — another nod to Kering’s reinvention plans.

It comes on the heels Multiple reports that Mr. Pinault is in advanced negotiations to purchase a majority stake in Hollywood talent agency CAA under the auspices of Artémis, the family investment company, which is the majority shareholder of Kering. Spokesmen for Mr Pinault and Artemis declined to comment on those reports.

With Kering’s bustling labels and massive cultural influence, a dominant industry narrative has emerged that positions the group as a major competitor to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the luxury industry’s largest conglomerate. But LVMH, with more than 75 luxury brands, beats Kering’s 14 brands in both sales revenue and market value.

Recently, Kering has stumbled. The performance of its shares has lagged behind that of major competitors such as Hermes and LVMH, while numerous scandals and controversies within some of Kering’s biggest fashion houses have bedeviled the group.

Balenciaga, once the most famous brand on the fashion calendar, took a stunning fall last fall after being accused of promoting pedophilia in its ad campaigns; Still trying to regain momentum. Then there were the constant headaches at Gucci, which generated two-thirds of Kering’s earnings in 2021 and whose reign under Mr. Michel has been widely lauded for ushering in a new era of magpie inclusivity and passion in fashion.

However, Mr. Michele—who was largely unknown in fashion until Mr. Bizzarri handpicked him to lead the brand—left in November after a disagreement with management over the direction of Gucci. He was replaced by Sabato De Sarno, who will show his first collection during Milan Fashion Week in September.

The general line – so far – has been that Mr. Bizzarri, who has overseen the growth of Gucci’s revenues to more than €10 billion from €3.89 billion, will stay on to lead the house into its next era.

Instead, he will be replaced in September by Jean-François Palos, Managing Director of Kering Group, who will fill the position until a successor is found.

In an investment note, Citibank described these steps as “considered and logical, strengthening decision-making, governance, and succession while demonstrating more determination to transform Gucci.”