It appears even the rarified world of iconic fashion designers is not immune to scurrilous charges of financial impropriety being leveled against them.
It has recently been reported in the New York Post that Gianpaolo de Felice, a former Alitalia Airlines pilot, and the husband of designer Donna Karan’s daughter has been accused of dipping his hand in the proverbial cookie jar of the private jet business that is owned by himself and a partner.
In 2009, De Felice bought Zen Air with his business partner, David Zara. De Felice is married to Gabby Karan; Donna’s daughter and it has been reported that at one time, he even operated his mother-in-law’s personal plane, according to the Post report..
Zen Air is the preferred conveyance for celebs to jet around the world, and according to a suit in Manhattan Supreme court, de Felice controls 80% of the company while Zara wons 20%. The suit adds that de Felice claimed that the company was losing in the profit department, but somehow he managed to justify taking an annual salary of $420,000 but gave his partner “zilch.” He made some less than honest statements to the IRS when he told them that in 2009 that each partner in the Zen Air company was taking in approximately $98,000 in distributions but in reality, de Felice collected the entire $196,000, according to the suit, and as reported by the Post.
In 2011, de Felice plunked down $500,000 of company money to buy a Ferrari sports car. He has told the IRS that his work related duties and responsibilities focused exclusively on Zen but court papers reveal that he spent copious amounts of time operating high scale restaurants in the Hamptons.
Moreover, the lawsuit also reveals that when the business revenues of Zen hit a low point in 2013, de Felice took a substantial raise in salary, as was reported in the NY Post. Despite this, according to the NY Post report, the suit claimed that de Felice at one point stated quite adamantly that neither he nor Zara would accept any salary whatsoever.
Another twist in this story is that De Felice had filed a suit seeking to remove Zara as his business partner. He asserted that Zara was attempting to undermine the business by persuading the company’s affluent customers to switch their allegiances to a competitor and spend their seemingly endless sums of money with them.
The suit says that Zara is essentially broke and now owes the IRS and his creditors about $240,000. Court papers reveal that other than a boat that is worth around $2000, Zara has no assets.
For his part, Zara wanted to buy de Felice out of the company because he was “spending most of his time and energy on managing the restaurants in Sag Harbor and Southampton, and also opening a third in Tribeca,” according to the Post report.
Lawyers representing Zara and de Felice declined comment.