Giacomo Santucci, a former executive of Prada who has been running the Gucci division since the end of 2000, is leaving Gucci Group for an unknown destination. Prada denies that he may be returning to their company, which has seen its chief financial officer, Riccardo Stilli, resign in the context of a reorganization of Prada’s management structure.

Without revealing his name for the moment, Prada says it has identified a new manager who will take responsibility for finance as well as administration & controlling, legal and general affairs, human resources and information technology. He would presumably act as #2 in Prada’s executive hierarchy after Patrizio Bertelli, the CEO and husband of Miuccia Prada, the chief designer of the Italian fashion house. The Italian press says the new manager is going to be Carlo Mazzi, who comes from the banking sector.

Gucci Group’s new CEO, Robert Polet, has appointed Mark Lee as president and managing director of the Gucci brand, taking over most of Santucci’s responsibilities. Lee has been running the group’s Yves Saint Laurent division since the end of 1999. James McArthur, executive vice president of the group in charge of strategy, acquisitions and other brands, is taking over Lee’s position at YSL on an interim basis. Lee, a 41-year-old American, first joined Gucci in 1996 to take care of its women’s ready-to-wear and was then placed in charge of global merchandising.

The resignation of Santucci is said to be linked to excessive financial demands that he has supposedly made as a condition to extend his own mandate. It follows the departure of another dozen high-caliber executives in the wake of the resignation of Gucci’s former CEO, Domenico De Sole, who left after the French Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR) group took full possession of the company early this year.

Tom Mendenhall, an American who has been handling merchandising at Gucci Group, is another important manager on his way out. He is said to be joining Abercombie & Fitch in the USA, where he would be working with another former top executive of Gucci, Bob Singer. The Italian press mentions two other possible departures – that of Alexis Bebeau, Gucci’s finance manager, and of Emilio Foa, company controller.

Analysts are wondering whether PPR is planning to divest some or all of its minor or “emerging brands,” which are losing money, to concentrate on the Gucci brand. The answer will probably come next month, when Polet is expected to outline his new business plan.

Meanwhile, Prada has taken full control of Helmut Lang, taking over the 49 percent stake that it had left in the hands of the eponymous Austrian designer when it bought 51 percent of his New York-based fashion house five years ago. Lang will continue as its creative director.

Prada is now expected to seek of public offering early next year, if market conditions allow it, partly in connection with the refinancing of a €700 million bond that falls due next June. The fashion house says its revenues increased by 15 percent in the first 7 months of this year.