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Giorgio Armani outlines succession plan to keep house intact

Colleen Barry, Associated Press

FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2017 file photo, Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani poses with models at the end of his womens Spring/Summer 2018 fashion collection, presented in Milan, Italy. In an interview with Corriere della Sera published Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, Armani broke the silence, saying that after he dies, three people that he names will be put in charge of the foundation that he created last year as a succession tool. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, files)

MILAN (AP) -- Giorgio Armani has outlined a succession plan aimed at preventing his fashion empire from being split up, but the 83-year-old designer remained mum Monday on an eventual creative transition.

One of the founding designers of Milan ready-to-wear, Armani's firm grip on the privately run fashion group Giorgio Armani SpA has long sparked speculation about his succession plans.

In an interview Monday with the Corriere della Sera daily, Armani said after he dies, three people who he names will be put in charge of the foundation that he created last year both as a succession tool and a vehicle for charity investments.

He said the foundation will be the tie-breaker if the evenly numbered board of directors for his business reaches an impasse.

"What we have created stimulates my heirs to remain in harmony and prevents the group from being bought or from breaking up," he said.

The interview did not address who will take over the creative direction of the fashion empire he founded in 1975, and which now comprises the ready-to-wear lines Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani and Armani Exchange, in addition to the couture line Armani Prive and Armani Casa home decor and furnishings.

He has said person does not necessarily need to be Italian.

Armani's heirs include his nieces, Roberta and Silvana, who both work at the group, and a nephew, Andrea Camerana, who is a board member. Long-time assistant Leo Dell'Orco heads the men's line and also sits on the board.

"Believe me, it is horrendous to decide what to leave to whom, if it is right or not right. Every five minutes, you are placed in front of a reality of a man to whom something could suddenly happen. This is true of everyone, but more so at 83," Armani said.

Giorgio Armani SpA saw its revenues drop 5 percent in 2016. The designer said that was due to a long-term strategy to relaunch Armani Exchange and simplify its portfolio. The company plans to return to growth in 2019.

The company has a cash position of 880 million euros ($1 billion), which he said would reach 1 billion euros by the end of the year.

Armani said he has never been tempted to follow the path of other Italian brands, which have been bought by big French conglomerates or other foreign investors.

"I don't think it is necessary," he said. "If then you start a discussion of the power that Louis Vuitton has regarding the media or investments, then it's clear that some doubts arise. But I want to be in charge in my house."