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Lawyer takes rewarding step from politics to jewelry maker

The master of new beginnings, George Chanos, is making a dramatic turnaround since spending two years as Nevada’s attorney general in 2005 and 2006. His latest passion? Designing jewelry.

Chanos, 52, was considered a rising GOP star even before Gov. Kenny Guinn appointed the Henderson lawyer to fill the final two years of Brian Sandoval’s term as attorney general after Sandoval snagged a lifetime appointment as a federal judge.

Chanos thought he was going to enjoy the attorney general’s job and originally planned to run for a full term. But after 17 months, he realized he didn’t enjoy the cutthroat aspect of partisan politics or the media spotlight. Chanos said he would finish his term, but wouldn’t run for the office because he wanted to spend more time with his family. Unfortunately, his marriage to Adriana Chanos ended in divorce.

“I’ve always had a passion for art,” Chanos said. “Even when I was 10 years old, I would paint and I would watch ‘Perry Mason.’ I’ve always had a fascination with art, business, law and politics, and those four interests have followed me through my entire life.”

He was a successful lawyer, but didn’t like the conflict and, after a 20-year legal career, is happier without the stress.

His success as a real estate investor netted him millions when he and his cousin, James Chanos, a hedge fund investor, bought land near Symphony Park and quickly flipped it in 2006. That investment created a conflict for him, as attorney general, to investigate developer Bill Walters. Instead, he hired a special counsel to look into Walters’ land dealings with the city. No charges were ever filed against Walters.

Anyway, Chanos went from attorney general to majority shareholder and chairman of the board of Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, a national and rapidly growing franchise.

He also squeezed out time for his art, which can be seen at www.chanosgalleries.com.

In December 2008, he was in Miami at a global art gathering. He was working on an installation piece, and part of the project was a floor-to-ceiling chandelier of multidenominational prayer beads and stars of David and other objects mixing religion and politics.

Jay Jopling, owner of the prestigious White Cube Gallery in London, saw the rosaries and asked if he could have two — one for himself and another for model Naomi Campbell.

That inspired Chanos to begin his new jewelry business, Alexandra St. Clair, named after his 13-year-old daughter.

He opened a temporary “pop-up” store in Los Angeles and plans one in Las Vegas to catch the pre-Valentine’s Day business.

Paris Hilton tweeted about his Los Angeles store, calling him a friend.

With prices ranging from $20 to $2,000, his jewelry is at www.alexandrastclair.com.

Chanos wants to serve the midrange niche.

“I want to create something that even wealthy women could wear happily and not spend thousands to acquire,” he said. “Something with high fashion qualities, but made of base material, more affordable one-of-a-kind pieces.”

Chanos designs the pieces and outsources the work to American craftsmen using materials he has gathered from around the world. He is trying to get his pieces into high-end department stores as well as pop-up stores nationwide.

Chanos has no regrets about leaving politics and the law and focusing on business and art.

“When you have choices, you do what you want to do; and I’m doing what I want to do.”

He has the ultimate freedom. He is wealthy enough to chase a dream without worrying about financial security.

While not risk-free, it’s a new beginning where Chanos puts himself and his talent on the line to be judged by the buying public.

My New Year’s wish is that risk-taking entrepreneurs succeed in 2011.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call 702- 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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