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PARIS (Reuters) - French fashion house Christian Dior fired its star designer John Galliano on Tuesday after an online video clip circulated around the world showing him hurling anti-Semitic abuse at people in a Paris bar.
Dior Chief Executive Sidney Toledano said the "odious nature" of Galliano's comments and behavior on the video led Dior to relieve Galliano of his duties after 15 years as the label's chief designer and just three days before Dior's catwalk show at Paris Fashion Week.
"I very firmly condemn what was said by John Galliano, which totally contradicts the values which have always been defended by Christian Dior," Toledano said in a statement.
The snowballing sequence of events surrounding Galliano's departure included an unheard of practically Dior-free Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday and prompted Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman -- who has a deal to promote Dior perfume -- to voice her disgust with the British designer in a formal statement late on Monday.
The saga started on Thursday evening when Paris police said they had been called to La Perle bar in the trendy Marais district where they encountered an inebriated Galliano delivering a torrent of abuse to a couple on the bar's terrace.
The police escorted Galliano to a station and then home. The couple complained that Galliano had berated them with racist and anti-Semitic comments during his tirade -- an offense under French law which carries stiff penalties.
SHOCKED AND DISGUSTED
Dior suspended Galliano on Friday and another similar complaint, dating back to a separate incident in the same bar in October, was subsequently made to the police. On Monday the video surfaced on the Web site of Britain's Sun tabloid.
Dior -- a favorite on the red carpet -- was all but invisible at Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony and Portman delivered a statement on Monday condemning Galliano.
Portman -- who won a best actress Oscar for ballet film "Black Swan" on Sunday, is Jewish and has a deal to promote the Miss Dior Cherie perfume -- said she was "deeply shocked and disgusted" by the video.
"In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr Galliano in any way," Portman said.
"I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful."
Galliano's lawyer Stephane Zerbib on Monday firmly denied the charges. "He has never said such things whether on the 24th (of February) or in October," Zerbib told Reuters.
Paris prosecutors are expected to decide by the end of the week whether Galliano will face trial over Thursday's incident in the Marais neighborhood, which is ironically the French capital's traditionally Jewish quarter.
It was not clear whether Dior's show would go ahead, although on Tuesday, the press office of John Galliano, the designer's own label, said his Sunday show was still on.
Dior is the leading fashion name at LVMH, the world's biggest luxury group led by billionaire Bernard Arnault but its revenues pale in comparison to those generated by Louis Vuitton, which accounts for half of LVMH's operating profit.
Dior sits alongside LVMH's other fashion brands Kenzo, Celine, Marc Jacobs, Fendi and Loewe but the Christian Dior company is the parent of LVMH whose businesses also include fine wines, spirits, watches and jewelry.
Galliano, who worked at Givenchy before joining Dior in 1996, was named British designer of the year four times.
Schooled in the alma mater of many of the world's top designers, London's Central St. Martins, Galliano was one of the longest lasting designers in the couture world alongside Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, Giorgio Armani and Jean-Paul Gaultier.
"It's sad. That's the only thing I can say. He's an artist and it's sad for me," Portuguese designer Fatima Lopes told Reuters Television.
Galliano's boots may be difficult to fill but some names were starting to circulate on Tuesday such as Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, one of Dior's sister brands at LVMH, as well as Haider Ackermann who already has his own label.
"I don't think there will be any serious consequences for Dior. It's a great brand, LVMH won't have any issue finding a new creative director - fresh creative talent may even be good news," Bernstein analyst Luca Solca said.
Dior shares which have risen more than 4 percent since the beginning of the scandal last week closed up 20 euro cents at 104.65 euros on Tuesday, while LVMH shares closed up 1.05 euros 115.30 euros.