Polet, Gucci Group galvaniser, wins Fortune award

MILAN, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Robert Polet, whose dynamism has helped turn around luxury goods company Gucci Group, has been named as European Businessman of the Year by Fortune magazine, the high-profile U.S. publication said in a statement.

Polet, who took on the role of chief executive at the world’s third-largest luxury group in 2004, has brought many of its leading brands such as designer Balenciaga and jeweller Boucheron into profit.

“I am as surprised as I am honoured and happy about this news,” Polet said of Fortune’s award.

The Dutchman’s dynamic and enthusiastic style has suffused the company, now owned by France’s PPR. Nine-month sales were up 15.2 percent to 2.775 billion euros ($4.08 billion), while half-year operating income soared 55 percent to 286 million euros on sales up 14.8 percent to 1.773 billion euros.

When he joined Gucci Group, Polet introduced changes to give each design label a creative director and a financial head -- linking fashion firmly with commercial viability.

The 52-year-old Polet came to Gucci Group after a 26-year career at Unilever, which he concluded by running the ice cream and frozen foods division.

He replaced Domenico De Sole, who left with Tom Ford -- the creative director who brought the Gucci label back among the film world and fashionistas’ must-have brands -- after failing to agree contract terms.

Polet’s three-year plan targets were met by virtually all of the group’s brands, with Bottega Veneta, best known for its sumptuous leather bags, Balenciaga and jeweller Boucheron all reaching expectations ahead of schedule. Fortune also named Minoru Mori -- president and CEO of Mori Building -- as its Asian Businessman of the Year.

Mori’s Shanghai World Financial Center, boasting the world’s tallest building, should open in the spring of 2008, some 15 years after first plans emerged.

Mori developed Tokyo’s luxury Roppongi Hills complex and the Omotesando Hills complex.

Fortune does not make an award for America. The awards, which have been running since 2001, have so far not been made to a woman. (Reporting by Jo Winterbottom; Editing by Stephen Weeks)