In Friday's episode of Dateline NBC, confidants of Maurizio and Patrizia Gucci open up about the marriage and divorce that unraveled the Gucci family
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patrizia reggiani and maurizio gucci
Credit: Del Puppo/Fotogramma/Ropi/Zuma

When Patrizia Reggiani met Maurizio Gucci at a party in 1970, she saw him as her ticket to a better life.

"She knew what she wanted and she went out to get it," PEOPLE editor-in-chief Dan Wakeford says in Friday's episode of Dateline NBC. "She wanted to get to that next echelon of society."

And she did — within two years, Patrizia and Maurizio were married, entwining her with the prominent house of Gucci and the heir to the Gucci fashion brand.

The celebrity power couple relocated from Italy to New York City, where Patrizia quickly joined the ranks of prominent socialite women.

But the couple's picture-perfect love story looked more like Romeo and Juliet behind the scenes, says Wakeford — noting that it was influenced by Gucci family politics and a disapproving father. (An exclusive clip from this week's two-hour Dateline NBC special, titled "Murder in the House of Gucci," is shown below.)

"[Maurizio's father, Rodolfo,] was very concerned about Patrizia, the way she would spend money and the way — her view, you know, she wanted to live her life," says Domenico De Sole, former CEO and chairman of Gucci, adding that Rodolfo viewed her as a gold-digger.

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In addition to the external pressures tugging at their marriage from the beginning, the couple's relationship grew strained from the inside — particularly after Maurizio became the majority stakeholder of the family company, pulling his focus away from Patrizia.

In 1985, three years after the couple moved back to Italy, Maurizio left for a "business trip" and never returned, sending a confidant to notify Patrizia that their marriage was over.

Sheree Loud
Credit: Dateline NBC

According to Sheree Loud, who dated Maurizio for five years while he was still legally married to Patrizia, Maurizio wasn't solely to blame for the split.

"[Patrizia] was unkind, always put him down, didn't want to do anything that he wanted to do," Loud tells Dateline in her first TV interview. "He said he didn't love her anymore. He said he just had had enough."

Patrizia finalized her divorce from Maurizio in 1994, losing one of her most precious assets: The legal right to use the Gucci surname.

In an exclusive interview with Dateline, her friend, Pina Auriemma, says Patrizia was "more sad and sorry about losing her name" than losing her husband.

Publicly bitter toward Maurizio and disheartened by rumors that he would soon remarry — a measure that would cut her alimony payments in half — Patrizia began to plot his murder with the help Auriemma, who connected her with a hitman.

On March 27, 1995, Maurizio — the family dynasty's final leader — was shot dead. And Patrizia continued calling herself a Gucci.

Dateline NBC's "Murder in the House of Gucci" airs Friday at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT. House of Gucci, starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver, is currently in theaters.