Georges Marciano? entrepreneurial career started when he arrived in California from France in 1977 with $5,000. Three years later, he and his brothers launched Guess Inc. in a 600-square-foot room on Broadway in downtown, and the company grew into an apparel and retail giant. Marciano sold his 40 percent stake in the company to his brothers in 1993 for about $240 million. He can be litigious. He sued his brothers because they were using his name on Guess products; the lawsuit was settled and they took his name off. His brothers have not spoken to him for eight years. Three years ago, Marciano filed a lawsuit against his personal advisers and employees, accusing them of misappropriating $400 million, both through the sale of his art collection and accounting fraud. Seeking evidence for his case, he wanted the IRS and the state to audit him in order to find $100 million in lost taxes, but they refused. His suit was dismissed earlier this year. The 62-year-old has announced he will run for governor as an independent ?he? seen as a long-shot. Even though Marciano has seven Ferraris in his driveway, he says he? still the same person as when he was poor. Marciano met with the Business Journal in a room of his Beverly Hills home, now serving as his campaign headquarters.

Question: Where did you grow up?

Answer: I was born in Algeria when it was a French colony. When I was 3 or 4, my parents moved to Marseilles in France and I lived the rest of my youth there until I came to California.

Q: What did your parents do for a living? Were they involved in fashion?
A: No, my dad was a rabbi. I? from many generations of rabbis.

Q: What did you study in school?

A: I left school at 13. I was not patient enough. I didn? like school. Did that make me dumb? I don? know.

Q: What was your first job?

A: When I was 13, I was selling vegetables in a market. It was a privilege. I worked all my life. It doesn? mean because you?e selling food at 13 that you?e a lazy guy or you?e going to turn bad. It took me 45 years to get here.

Q: How did you go from a rabbi? son to a fashion designer?

A: I came on vacation to Los Angeles. It was a dreamland. Was I interested in the movie business? Absolutely not. That? not my business. But I am in love with Los Angeles, California. That? my country. I will never move anywhere.

Q: How did you start Guess?

A: I had $5,000. We started in a 600 square-foot room in a 12-story building on Broadway. That was 1980.

Q: Did you know how to sew?

A: No, I don? know how to cut fabric. But when you go downtown you can hire someone to cut and sew. I don? know how much they charge now, but at the time it was affordable for my pocket.

Q: How did you finance your company?

A: I started to have good orders, a big one from Bloomingdale?. I went to the bank and asked for a loan of $25,000. They said, ?r. Marciano, if you put $25,000 in an account, we can loan you the $25,000.?I could not believe it. If I had the $25,000, I wouldn? be there. They said, ?ut that? how the system works.?I left humiliated.

Q: So where did you get the $25,000?

A: Friends. It was such a little amount. That was the turning point. After that, the department stores treated me wonderfully. Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Bloomingdale?, Dillard? ?they were really gentlemen.

Q: Why are you running for governor?

A: I? really worried when I see people selling their gold crowns for $6. It kills me because I? Jewish and it reminds me of the Holocaust. What? next? I decided, for the rest of my life, I will work for the people.

Q: What is your top priority?

A: The fight for justice. Right now they repossess a house, put the poor people on the street and then destroy the house. This is so ridiculous. Why not let them live there until they can get better off? It? not their fault. I don? see the government helping them like it helped the banks. That? not right.

Q: Have your own legal troubles inspired this passion for justice?

A: They audit the gas station guy and the librarian; if they catch him, they make him pay $250. I? talking $100 million. This is a most inhuman situation for the people while the rich get richer.

Q: You have seven Ferraris in your driveway, yet you seem to identify more with the people than with the rich.

A: I was poor and I? still poor in my head; I? the same person as when I was poor.

Q: Who is your hero?

A: Susan B. Anthony. There should be a national day for her. She once said, ?esistance to tyranny is obedience to God.?She fought, she went to prison, paid fines. She won. I will do everything to sponsor a statue in Washington, D.C., and have a Susan B. Anthony Day.

Q: Is there a contradiction between your life in fashion and your love of cowboy art?

A: From 1981 to 1993, Guess was only western. After I sold my part of Guess, it became something else. But all my life at Guess, it was Americana.

Q: Then what made your designs different?

A: I? proud to say I brought stone-wash to the United States. No one was doing it, not Levi? or any other brand.

Q: What was the toughest move of your career?

A: When I sold my share of Guess. It was a decision to go public or stay private. My brothers wanted to go public; I wanted to stay private. It was hard because Guess was my baby. They proved me wrong because Guess is a huge company now. But in my head, I didn? want to have to report every detail.

Q: Then what did you do?

A: Then I bought some real estate ?office buildings ?and fell in love with remodeling. I put fresh roses in the bathroom for every tenant. I hung art on every wall ?it became my passion. And so I started collecting art, but on my budget ?no Rembrandts for $20 million. I made my buildings into museums.

Q: Who are some famous artists you collect?

A: Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Marc Chagall, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.

Q: Who is your favorite?

A: G. Harvey, the cowboy artist. He has 10 paintings in the White House. I have several paintings by him in addition to sculpture.

Q: How many homes do you own?

A: Other than the Beverly Hills house, I have two houses on Sunset Boulevard at the corner of Foothill. They are next to each other.

Q: Will you ever get back into the fashion business?

A: I? trying to involve my son Matt, 22, in a design business again. If he wants to do it, I would love to help him with the designs. Financially, he cannot be spoiled by the money his dad has. He has to be impassioned.

Q: As candidate for governor, what? your take on the state budget crisis?

A: They say we don? have enough money. We have the money, but if the rich don? get audited how are you going to get that money to pay civil servants? It? really upsetting. Did it open their eyes when they caught Bernard Madoff? Not really, you don? hear about anyone else getting caught. It? so troubling that he got away with it for 30 years, and people reported him to the SEC many years ago. So I want the Business Journal readers to know that we need people to be equal. You audit the poor, middle class, then also the rich. That is my priority: audit the rich. I want 10,000 Franchise Tax Board agents. The banks should be audited once a year to see how much money laundering is going out of the country.

Q: Where did the system go wrong?

A: In the last eight years, everything went wrong. People got greedy and the government didn? do anything. Imagine a nice, honest person selling their teeth downtown for money. On the other hand, you have a guy, Bernard Madoff, who defrauded people out of $50 billion over 30 years, and now he doesn? know where the money is. You see the difference? Twenty Madoffs would equal $1 trillion. And there must be more than 20 in the United States, of that I? sure. You cannot have people taking money out of the country by the billions, maybe trillions, and 80 percent to 90 percent of the population living in poverty. This is America, not a Third World country! It? not fair for the people.

Q: Did you have money invested with Madoff?

A: No.

Q: Besides catching tax evaders, what other revenue policies do you support?

A: If I? governor, I want people to understand we are going to put a VAT on everything that comes from overseas.

Q: Value-added tax?

A: Yes! Yes! In other countries they do it. We have a VAT in France for 30 years. Why not here? We are going to file bankruptcy. There? no justice for the poor and a terrible cover-up for people who make a ton of money. Not fair.

Q: How do you plan on financing your campaign?

A: I hate the word ?inancing.?I want to be elected by people who only have a dollar. I don? want to make a campaign. I don? want an ad on the Super Bowl. I want people to give me one dollar. In Lincoln? day, they didn? have television but he sent his message out.

Q: How do you plan to get your message out?

A: Radio interviews, TV interviews and speeches. If someone else wins because they spent $300 million, they won? be a good governor.

Q: How would your policies affect entrepreneurs?

A: The state should suggest very strongly that banks help entrepreneurs. Not with millions, but the guy who comes in for $25,000. The banks should have more responsibilities. I would like to start a state bank in California.

Q: A state-owned bank?

A: Yes.

Q: And would there continue to be private banks?

A: Yes, but they will have a tough time. We will help the people.

Q: Any other policies?

A: Open more prisons, lots more. California has the money, and I will get it, I will hunt it down. We?l be so rich, maybe we?l loan money to the federal government.

Q: Finally, if you weren? Georges Marciano, who would you be today?

A: Bill Clinton, because he left the country with a surplus. I admire him for that. And in the last eight years, we have lost so much in Iraq it must have been on purpose. The president who came after him should have done more than he did, and we would have more money. But it went the opposite way.


BORN: Algeria; 1947

EDUCATION: Dropped out of high school

CAREER TURNING POINT: When a bank rejected his request for a $25,000 loan to finance the launch of Guess Inc. and he had to turn to private investors

MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE: Ralph Lauren, Susan B. Anthony

PERSONAL: Divorced, single father of four children ages 14 to 22

HOBBIES: Collecting Western art, watching old black-and-white movies, reading about the U.S. Constitution

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