Mary and her part in the Gucci Wars

On 27 March 1995, Maurizio Gucci, of the famous Florentine family whose name is synonymous with designer leather goods, was shot and killed by two hitmen in the street outside his Milan office as he arrived at work.

The “assassination” followed decades of family feuding which had seen boardroom rivalry and infighting culminating in 1993 when Maurizio, then company president, sold off the Gucci holdings to an Anglo-Arab company for a reported £140 million.

In the midst of this real-life Sopranos-style drama was London girl, Jennifer Gucci, who had married into the dysfunctional family and became the New York neighbour of Patrizia Gucci who was later jailed for plotting the murder of her ex-husband Maurizio.

Mary Harboe at home in Burgh.

Fast forward to the present, and 3,500 miles away at her home in Burgh, journalist and author Mary Harboe updated her book Gucci Wars to coincide with the release of Ridley Scott’s Oscar-hopeful film House of Gucci on 26 November.

Mary wrote the book – described as “a glossy Eighties bonkbuster” – in 2008 after a chance meeting with Jenny in Marbella, Spain, where Mary was working as a radio broadcaster.

“Over numerous cups of tea, Jenny told me all about her amazing life as a Gucci and also the dark side – the dreadful things that happened – when she tried to leave her husband, Paolo. It is a truly remarkable story,” says Mary.

Gucci Wars (published by John Blake) was the result – an account of how a dental nurse from Mill Hill, London, went on to be an operatic student in Florence where she met and married Paolo Gucci, a grandson of Gucci’s founder, Guccio Gucci.

For 10 years, as Mrs Gucci, Jenny had been blissfully happy living in opulence, glamour, and wealth. But it all went horribly wrong when she took the unprecedented step of asking for a divorce.

“When we wrote the book, Paolo had died intestate and without ever granting her a divorce. Jenny was still struggling financially as she was not allowed to use her Gucci name in any commercial context. But Jenny’s story did not end in Marbella – there were many more twists and turns to come. Also, Patrizia had been released from prison . . . hence the need to re-write and bring Gucci Wars up to date,” said Mary.

Born near King’s Lynn, Mary Harboe worked as a journalist on the Lynn News moving to London where she edited a global company newspaper.

Journalism and her husband’s career took her to many parts of the world including Africa and the Middle East. She settled in southern Spain in the late 1980s and spent 20 years there as a radio broadcaster.

Early in 2021, Mary got back in touch with Jenny for a virtual catch up and to discuss the latest Ridley Scott production.

Although the film stars Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci and Lady Gaga, the wife who had him killed, Jared Leto, who plays Jenny’s husband Paolo, is an integral part of the story.

It was Jared who contacted Mary.

“He was keen to know more about Paolo’s personality and mannerisms” says Mary, “and Jenny agreed to speak to him as she wanted to be sure that, despite all his failings, Paolo’s legacy as a designer was in safe hands.”

Although not involved in the film, Mary is in regular contact with Jenny who now lives in London.

Mary has two adult children from a previous marriage. In 2018, she married Rob Ollman and returned to her roots in the Norfolk countryside where she is writing her first novel.

Gucci Wars – Jenny Gucci’s Story, by Mary Harboe, is published by SilverWood Books, November 2021

Patrick Prekopp, September 2021

See House of Gucci video trailer on Mary Harboe’s website

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