Kuala Lumpur, March 8th 2015: Hollywood, as it is, popularized the mob throughout the 1970s to 1990s with films such as The Godfather, Scarface and Goodfellas. For that reason, growing up, we were either fascinated by the inner workings of the mafia or cringe at the thought of ever meeting one.
At the Masters of Success, an annual mega conference organized by Summit, invited guests and fans were treated to a special occasion when the real ‘Godfather’ flew in to speak to a live audience in Malaysia for the first time.
“I’m going to ask you something personal,” a member of the audience says. “Have you ever shot or killed anybody?” It’s not the sort of question you expect to hear in a business conference. But then again, Michael Franzese (or “Yuppie Don”, “The Prince of Mafia”) is not your usual speaker. “When you’re part of the life, you’re part of the violence,” as candid as he replies.
Michael Franzese speaking at The Masters of Success 2015 conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
At his most affluent, he generated an estimated $5 to $8 million every week from legal and illegal businesses. It was a life filled with power, luxury…and deadly violence. At the age of 35, Fortune Magazine listed him as number 18 on its list of the “Fifty Most Wealthy and Powerful Mafia Bosses” of all time, just 5 behind the infamous John Gotti. His advice for running any business successfully is to do only what you do best, and delegate the rest.
Despite the violence, it was also a story of love and faith.
In 1984, Florida, he met Camille Garcia, a dancer working on set. Michael recalls, “We were sitting by the pool, relaxing before work started. I’m minding my own business, when suddenly this gorgeous 20-year-old girl comes out of the water. I saw her, and everything went in slow motion. It was like a Pepsi commercial!” He says with a laugh. Without a doubt, it was the love for Camille, a strong young woman of faith who changed the face of organized crime in America because of her influence on Franzese.
Three months after the pair got married in 1985, Franzese found himself going to prison, where he would remain, separated from Camille for eight years. His young wife, however, stood by him.
“When I saw how important her faith was to her, I realized my life was in contradiction to everything she believed in. At that moment I knew if I wanted her in my life, I had to make some changes.”
These changes did not come easy. While serving time in prison, he decided to walk away from the mafia and a contract was taken out on his life. However, according to Franzese, he is the only high ranking boss of a major crime family to ever walk away, without protective custodies, and survive to tell the tale.
Franzese said that due to his former life, he considered it an obligation to help make a change in the lives of people. If there is anyone who could positively affect at-risk youth, it must be Michael Franzese, due to his powerful anti-crime messages, and a former mob life of decades.
After his speech, the mob boss visits Summit’s office, where staff and members of the media were invited to get up-close with the mob boss. As you would expect, more questions were raised as to the extent of his influence in the mob. Speaking to us exclusively during the press conference, Franzese says,
“I had the power of life and death. If I was unhappy with someone, I wanted the person to be eliminated, I could do it. It’s an awesome power, but it comes with a lot of responsibility. And a lot of guys were abusive with it.”
Franzese spotting a rare smile with a fan after the press conference
When asked about his future plans, Franzese says he is involved in an upcoming TV series about the ‘golden-era’ of the American Mafia. Today, Franzese continues to serve in his foundation, The Michael Franzese Ministries, which aims to encourage people to turn their lives around. He also plans to visit Malaysia in June or July to conduct talks at local churches.