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Business and Investing Tips From an Ex-Mob Boss

by Louis J. Wasser

I’m like any other man. All I do is supply a demand. — Al Capone

Stay away from mafia types. They’re a scary bunch. Better to gut your IRA or approach a pesky in-law if you need a loan. But if you’re looking for a great meal at a great price, it makes good sense to know where the mob goes to eat.

Savvy law-abiding residents in some big U.S. cities – New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, to name only a few – are clued in to particular local restaurants where they can get a great meal at a fabulous price. Sure, they might pick up some OK dining tips from Zagat’s or a local newspaper. But to get a fantastic meal at a great price, they know to follow the mob.

Think about it for a minute. If you ran a restaurant, which of your customers would be the first to complain if you started skimping on costs by substituting cheap ingredients for the good stuff? And who better than a wise guy to tell a good wine from an inferior wine?

Again, a guide like Zagat’s can give you some helpful guidance. After all, the publication’s been around since 1979. But for deeper, more reliable culinary lessons, find yourself a mob haunt.

The mob has other valuable lessons to teach us though. If we’re to believe a 2009 book by ex-mob boss Michael Franzes, we can also pick up some useful business and investing lessons from the mob.

The author is one tough cookie. In 1986, at the age of 35, Franzes ranked number 8 on Fortune Magazine’s list of the most wealthy and powerful of mafia bosses. He served ten years in prison on federal racketeering charges, and is reputed to be the first-made man from a major crime family to walk away from the life without protective custody.

Franzes firmly believes that certain skills and practices remain the same for succeeding in the life of crime and legitimate business: “Business is business …. Whether you’re doing it on the street illegally or you’re doing it legitimately, there’re certain principles that carry both ways”.

“Be able to recognize a good deal,” advises Franzes. When you find one, learn the art of negotiation to make sure you get the very best end of that deal. Write a business plan, don’t wing it. “Don’t micro-manage.” Work with people you trust, and let them do things for you. These are just several of the business principles Franzes stresses in his book.

On the investment side, Franzes counsels his readers to stay away from the stock market. He feels the bubble will eventually burst. Investors should buy gold instead of stocks – physical gold in the form of bars, as opposed to ETFs or mining stocks.

“Fine,” you say. So where can you go to follow the mob to a great place for dinner if you’re too discreet to ask around? Well, we don’t want to spill the beans here, but we do suggest this. Do a google search using these words: “where the mob bosses dine,” and you’ll manage to figure it out from there. (If it’s any consolation, you should be aware that Google now owns Zagat’s.)

For more investment advice, you’ll have to buy Franzes’s book. It all comes down to this though. In the food department, as fat Clemenza says to Lampone in Francis Ford Coppola’s classic film The Godfather, “leave the gun, take the cannoli.”   In the finance department, honor Franzes’s wisdom: “leave the stocks. invest in gold.”

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