Happy to Make Some Waves : On Land or Sea, Prada's Bertelli Likes to Win

By Thomas, Dana | Newsweek International, February 28, 2000 | Go to article overview

Happy to Make Some Waves : On Land or Sea, Prada's Bertelli Likes to Win


Thomas, Dana, Newsweek International


When the Prada sailing team blew its two-race lead during the Louis Vuitton Cup finals in Auckland, New Zealand, last month, Prada CEO Patrizio Bertelli blew his top. The sailing community was aghast, but not the Italian press corps. "He's from Tuscany; you have to understand these people," said one reporter. "One minute they are laughing, the next they are on fire."

But Bertelli's hand is hot, too. Following what some observers called an "epic" tantrum, his Prada Challenge team beat AmericaOne to win the Louis Vuitton Cup and the right to challenge New Zealand in the 30th edition of the America's Cup race, a best of nine series that kicked off this weekend. Meanwhile, a similarly impassioned approach--combined with publicity from sailing victories--is producing similar success at Prada itself. Carlo Pambianco, a luxury analyst in Milan, predicts sales growth of 20 percent or more for the Milan-based ready-to-wear and leather goods company this year.

Which still may not be enough to satisfy one of the greatest control freaks on land or sea. At Prada, Bertelli chooses the company stationery, dictates the menu in the employee cafeteria and personally hires most of the staff. Though officially the 53-year-old executive just runs the business side, Bertelli personally approves every item in the Prada line. "He's there at the beginning, middle and end," says Patrizio di Marco, a Louis Vuitton executive in New York and former president and CEO of Prada USA. So, too, with his America's Cup effort. A sailor himself, Bertelli hand-picked the entire team for the $50 million yacht, the Luna Rossa.

Bertelli was running his own leather-goods factory in Tuscany when he met heiress Miuccia Prada at a trade show in 1978. When she came across Bertelli's wares, she cried, "You copied my stuff!" She hired him to do the real thing, and married him eight years later. …

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