A jury returned a $370 million verdict against Guess Inc. co-founder Georges Marciano on Friday in a civil defamation lawsuit that was filed by five former employees.
Each ex-employee will get $69 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, according to the Los Angeles County Superior Court verdict.
Marciano sued his employees in August 2007, accusing them of embezzling money and stealing artwork by Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and other artists from his collection of contemporary art.
His suit was thrown out in December 2008, but the employees filed a cross-complaint, alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A judge found Marciano liable in May. An assistant in the former blue jeans mogul's office said Marciano would not comment Tuesday afternoon.
Marciano refused to cooperate with pre-trial discovery and skipped out on scheduled depositions, so the court ruled that his attorneys were not allowed to participate in the trial, said R Rex Parris, the lead attorney for the employees.
Parris said Marciano made a surprise appearance during the trial on Wednesday. Marciano took the stand and Parris questioned him. When Parris asked if Marciano would apologize to his former employees for wreaking havoc on their lives, Marciano asked if the attorney was making a joke.
Marciano stated that he was on a "crusade" to get justice, Parris said.
Parris said the verdict shows that "being rich does not mean you have the power to ruin the lives of other people on a whim or suspicion."
Marciano was the founding designer of Guess, the company that introduced stonewashed jeans to the US, in 1982. His three brothers bought him out for $240 million in 1993 and took Guess public three years later.
The 62-year-old Beverly Hills resident filed papers to run for governor of California in April, but tax officials said he owes the state $1.7 million in taxes.