Is Serge Weinberg a genius or a madman? That question is riveting the gossipy fashion industry and investors in Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR), the $20 billion French company that Weinberg has been transforming over the past decade into a European retail and luxury-goods powerhouse. Three years ago, the CEO won a fierce battle to acquire iconic fashion group Gucci for $9 billion. Then, earlier this year, he allowed Gucci's creative director, Tom Ford, and its chief executive, Domenico De Sole, to walk out the door after the collapse of talks to renew their contracts. Weinberg tapped Robert Polet, a Dutch consumer-goods executive who is an ice cream expert...

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