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Divorce Italian style

Cecchi Gori split may spell trouble at the office

MILAN — After months of speculations and 13 years of marriage, Rita Rusic has filed for separation from Italy’s top film producer and distributor, Vittorio Cecchi Gori.

The split could have a significant impact on the business affairs of Italy’s leading film player, who has been gradually losing ground to more aggressive competitors in the film sector and is still carrying the burden of a loss-making TV division.

The official separation documents were published by Italy’s magazine Novella 2000 after press reports about the couple’s increasingly stormy relationship.

Tuesday night the police were forced to come to Cecchi Gori’s villa in Rome to settle a domestic dispute. Two weeks ago, Rusic asked the police to escort her home because “she was afraid,” the Italian daily La Repubblica reported Thursday.

Rusic role in biz

A former model and B movie actress who married Cecchi Gori despite his late father’s disapproval, Rusic, 38, has in recent years played a major role in the Cecchi Gori Group.

Although she kept a low-profile, she eventually became solely responsible for the company’s production of comedies and gained a reputation for grooming new talent, including Leonardo Pieraccioni and Paolo Virzi.

A number of the low-budget movies she produced over the years became box office blockbusters, including Pieraccioni’s films. She had less success, however, when she tried her hand at more serious fare.

Pics such as Gianni Amelio’s “They Way They Laughed” underperformed, while projects such as Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Indiscreet Traveler” and Francesca Archibugi’s “The Wind” were eventually dropped because they were too logistically difficult.

Neither Rusic nor Cecchi Gori has commented on news of the split.

Many in the industry expect Rusic to go out on her own as an independent producer.

Trumped

Italian industryites speculate that Rusic will be looking for a major financial settlement, which is certain to aggravate Cecchi Gori’s current cash-flow problems.

A major question mark hangs over the future of the film division, traditionally the group’s core business and most profitable activity.

If Rusic’s exit is confirmed, she will be difficult to replace. Deeply involved in politics in Italy’s Senate and in the management of his soccer team, Fiorentina, Vittorio Cecchi Gori has also just entered a controversial digital venture with pay TV operation Stream.

Too busy to run the film division personally, he has never been good at delegating responsibility, and the group lacks a solid management structure.

In recent days, rumors have circulated that Cecchi Gori has taken away Rusic’s signatory power and has given control of the film division to Roberto Natrici, a veteran administrator from the days when Cecchi Gori’s father Mario ran the company.

But the constant reshuffling within the management ranks of the company in recent years means that Natrici’s position could be as precarious as those of some of his predecessors.

(David Rooney in Rome contributed to this report.)