FASHION tycoon Donatella Versace is a âpower-hungry monsterâ, her murdered brother Gianniâs former boyfriend claims.
Antonio DâAmico was designer Gianniâs loyal partner and Âcolleague for 15 years and Âwitnessed the bitter feud that raged in the Versace clothes empire.
And he was there when Gianni, 50, was shot by a gay serial killer on the steps of his lavish Miami home.
As the 20th anniversary of the Âkilling approaches, a major TV series about the murder is being made, Âstarring Penelope Cruz as fiery Âformer drug addict Donatella.
Ex-model Antonio told The Sun on Sunday: âWhen Donatella first came into my life I tried to treat her like she was family but towards the end I thought of her as a monster.
âDrugs fry your brain and Donatella became angry, frustrated and suspicious of the people around her. She was very difficult to deal with.
âI saw her as a diva who thought she was the genius in the family.
âBut she was nothing compared to her brother.
âThe hardest thing was she dropped Gianniâs name from the company.
âI could never understand how she could do that as for me it showed a complete lack of respect.â
Antonio, now 58, claims the family feud began when Elton John tipped off Gianni about Donatellaâs drug use, which led the designer to sideline his sister in the business.
He says Gianniâs relationship with Donatella, who later admitted to an 18-year cocaine addiction, took a significant downturn in the early 1990s when he found out she had started using the drug at parties attended by model pals such as Naomi Campbell.
In our exclusive interview, he said: âGianni was furious when he found out Donatella was on drugs. I was there when he took the phone call from Elton. He was shocked.
âGianni was always anti-drugs and neither of us ever took coke so he could not believe his sister was doing it.
âBut people had seen her taking drugs at a party in Los Angeles and Elton called him to pass on the news.
âGianni immediately phoned Donatella and at first she denied it.
âBut eventually her habit got so bad she had to go to rehab to get treatment.
âGianni was disappointed in her and it caused him to lose trust in his sister. They always had a love-hate relationship and it became more fractured after that.
âI donât think he was worried she would harm the house of Versace as he was in control and made all the decisions.
âBut he did not have a high opinion of her as a designer or a businesswoman and would get upset by some of the things she did.â
The Versace empire was founded by Italian designer Gianni, who started out as an apprentice in his motherâs sewing business in 1978.
Over the years he turned his company into one of the biggest fashion houses in the world, worth around Â£2billion, with annual sales of more than Â£500million, and became friends with celebrities including Eric Clapton, Princess Diana, Madonna, Cher and Sting.
He handed 30 per cent of his business to his older brother Santo, 72, and 20 per cent to his younger sister Donatella but by the early 1990s, according to Antonio, Gianni started to have serious concerns about Donatellaâs ability to run the firm.
In 1996 he stated in a newspaper interview he was âat warâ with his sister who had risen in the company to the point where she had become his rival.
At the same time he made his will. He divided his part in the company and his multi-million pound fortune between Antonio and Donatellaâs children, daughter Allegra, now 30, and 26-year-old son Daniel.
Tragedy struck a year later when Gianni was shot on the steps of his Miami mansion by Andrew Cunanan, a 27-year-old âhigh-classâ gay prostitute, who had carried out at least five random murders before this attack.
He took his own life as the police closed in on him eight days after he had murdered Gianni.
The shocking killing is being recreated for the TV series The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.
It is currently shooting in Miami, where actress Penelope, 43, has been photographed wearing a red dress as she plays party-loving Donatella. Antonio is played by singer Ricky Martin, 45.
But Antonio says he has little faith the Hollywood studio will accurately portray what was really happening behind the scenes.
He said: âIn public Donatella was crying on my shoulder and in private she was treating me like s**t.
âI felt she was doing everything she could to get rid of me from the Âbusiness.
âI donât know why she hated me so much. You would have to ask her that. I rarely argued with her as I would always try to avoid her.
âMaybe she was jealous of me because I had power from being so close to Gianni and he would listen to me more than her.
âDonatella saw herself as the star of Versace.
âAfter her brother died she seemed to get rid of people he was close to. She is not a happy person in my opinion. She does not have many friends.â
Donatella has publicly admitted she does not like Antonio.
Two years after her brotherâs death she reportedly said: âMy relationship with Antonio is exactly as it was when Gianni was alive. I respected him as the boyfriend of my brother but I never liked him as a person. So the relationship stayed the same.â
Gianni left Antonio a small Âpension of around Â£20,000 a year in his will, as well as his multi-million pound homes in New York, Milan, Lake Como in Italy and Miami, where he was killed.
But Antonio, who now runs fashion label Antonio DâAmico Golf, says the money was eaten up by taxes and he decided to hand back the houses to the Versace family.
Donatella Âmeanwhile remains vice president of the Versace group and took over as the designer after her brotherâs death.
Too upset to talk about the details of the murder, Antonio added: âI gave back all the homes after Gianni died because I didnât want to be anywhere near Donatella.
âShe made it clear she did not want me around and so I left. It was my decision.
âI donât care about material things and I did not want all that negative energy around me.
âAfter Gianni died I entered a very deep depression that lasted about five years. Iâm not sure I would have got through it without the help of Elton John, who was the rock of support that I needed.
âIt was Elton who encouraged me to get back to work and to keep designing clothes.
âNow I am living a humble life in a normal house in the countryside outside Milan. I am happy but I am not sure Donatella can say the same thing.
âYes, she has helped make Versace a big company but for me it no longer has the touch of genius it had under Gianni. It has become mediocre, in my opinion.
âDonatella always thought she was brilliant but you can never have two geniuses in one family.â