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Former Mafia boss shares views on women in business

Nov. 18, 2009

Matthew Hellman | Staff Photographer
Michael Franzese, described as "one of the biggest money earners the mob had seen since Al Capone," speaks at a Baylor Business Women event as a guest lecturer Tuesday in the Cashion Academic center.

By Kelsey Mohr

One second in line to be a New York mafia boss, Michael Franzese had a major change of heart. Today he is a strong Christian and motivational speaker who travels all over the country.

Franzese addressed Baylor Business Women Tuesday night on the topic of Dollars and Sense: Gender and Power in Business.

Franzese is the former Captain of the Colombo crime family and was at no. 18 on Fortune Magazine's "Fifty Most Wealthy and Powerful Mafia Bosses" list in the '80s.

"Franzese was one of the biggest money-earners the mob had seen since Al Capone," said the Organized Crime Task Force, an organization that investigates and prosecutes multicounty, multistate and multinational organized criminal activities occurring within the state of New York.

Franzese was successful as a mobster because of his great head for business. He had his hand in many different business ventures, both legal and illegal, including movie production.

While working on a movie set, Franzese met his future wife Cammy Garcia, a dancer from California, who shared her faith with him and helped to change his heart.

"If it wasn't for a woman in my life, I wouldn't be here. I'd either be dead or in prison. My wife was a tremendous force in my life," Franzese said.

After coming from a world that women are excluded from, Garcia was a direct contradiction to everything else around him, Franzese said.

"She's had an absolutely major impact on my life. I believe she saved my life because she was definitely the catalyst God used to make this major change in my life bringing me to the Lord," Franzese said.

"I'm just amazed. All the struggles that we've had, all the issues we've been through, eight years in prison, 13 months on parole, death threats in my life, this girl has gone through so much. She's been my absolute foundation and rock."

Since his first speaking engagement to professional athletes about illegal gambling, Franzese has visited more than 400 universities. This is his fourth visit to Baylor.

"I love the Christian principle that [Baylor] is built on. I think it's for real at Baylor and I say that because I've been to other Christian universities that seem to me to be hiding their Christianity and their faith and I don't like that," Franzese said.

It may not have been his first visit to Baylor, but it was his first time speaking to an audience of businesswomen.

"I've been dealing with so many women lately in high positions and I've been really enjoying it, so women are doing a good job in my view, and I wouldn't mind telling you if I didn't think they were," Franzese said.

Franzese was chosen to speak Tuesday night by Baylor Business Women after Melanie Smith, academic adviser and Baylor Business Women faculty adviser, met him at a conference he spoke at in Los Angeles four years ago.

The lecture was a new spin on what Franzese usually speaks about.

"We wanted to make a way for him to talk about his experiences and his past and then be able to relate that to women in business," said Kalie Karnes, Kansas City senior and Baylor Business Women programs chair.

"I feel that business is business, whether it is being conducted by a woman or a man. I certainly don't believe that there should be a difference in pay scale between men and women. Whoever does the job, they should be paid equally," Franzese said.

Today Smith is taking Franzese to speak to the prisoners in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, a Houston-based nonprofit organization that connects the nation's top executives, MBA students and politicians with convicted felons and Baylor Business Women's philanthropy.

"I visit a lot of prisons and speak to a lot of inmates and they really do appreciate people from the outside imparting any kind of knowledge or wisdom or encouragement that you can give them," Franzese said.

Along with a busy speaking schedule, Franzese is an author.

He has written four books, two of which were published this year.

His newest book, "The Good, the Bad and the Forgiven," is just now being released in bookstores.

"I'm really excited about this book because I see it as a ministry tool that will really encourage people, give them hope and make them understand that no matter what you have done in life we have a loving God that is there to forgive you," Franzese said.

This book is unlike his previous works because it focuses strongly on his faith and the change it made in his life.

"I always have stories of the past that impacted me and made me realize that God allowed me to go through that in preparation for what he has me doing now. So people always enjoy the mob stories in every book that I write, that is a big part of it, but they are stories with a purpose," Franzese said.