Let’s move on to the players in the Los Angeles development case. They are Frank Parlato, Clare and Sara Bronfman, Yuri Plyam and Keith Raniere. Although I don’t believe Raniere is named in any of the legal proceedings, he is actually the main player, like the driver ensconced inside an M1 Abrams tank, you don’t see him but he’s the one making the 68 tons of steel weaponry move. That weaponry is Clare and Sara Bronfman. Who is Raniere?
Compared to Keith Raniere, the villain Shmuel Shmueli is nothing more than a tiny opportunistic pimple. A former computer consultant, Raniere’s greatest accomplishment in the normal business world was his 1990 TV infomercial product Consumers’ Buyline which solicited members to join and enjoy wholesale prices for products bought in volume for its members. By 1993 facing hundreds of lawsuits and being investigated by regulators in 20 states, New York’s attorney general shut the business down as a pyramid scheme and thousands of small investors lost whatever money they invested.
Raniere reinvented himself as a self-professed genius, spiritual guru and inspirational coach for business executives. He hooked up with Nancy Salzman, a professional neuro-linguistic programmer (NLP) and hypnotist and started a company outside Albany, NY in 1998 called Executive Success Programs, later named NXIVM (pronounced nex-ee-um). NXIVM soon evolved into a cult that revolves around Raniere who for whatever reason exerts a Svengali-like hold on rich, attractive and powerful women with an “inner circle” of women who run everything for him at the expense of their personal fortunes and sexual submission. James Odato, a journalist for the Albany Times-Union, wrote close to 40 separate articles on NXIVM, including a four-part series titled “Secrets of NXIVM.” Odato describes Raniere as a man who peddles himself as a spiritual being to followers, most of them women, who tend to him, pay his bills, shuttle him around and satisfy his sexual needs. Clare and Sara Bronfman are at the top of those in the inner circle.
The Times Union wasn’t the only publication to investigate NXIVM. There were exhaustive articles by investigative journalists in Forbes, Vanity Fair, NY Post, New York Observer, Village Voice, WoldCultWatch.org, The Nation and many others. Common to many of the articles published were the terms, cult, bribes, coercion, money laundering, unlawful imprisonment, frivolous lawsuits, blackmail, perjury, forgery, tax evasion, statutory rape, and suicides. These are not the terms you would come across when reading about companies like Campbell’s Soup, General Motors, or Microsoft. There is something very weird going on at NXIVM. Raniere was on the cover of the October, 2003 Forbes magazine with a cover title “The World’s Strangest Executive Coach.”
Strange indeed. His former girlfriend Toni Natalie said Raniere bordered on insanity and recalled how he insisted she keep the body of her dead puppy in her garage freezer and look at it daily, which, of course, she did. He was “very charismatic,” she said. “I mean, he could tell you the sun is purple with pink polka dots and you’d look up and see it.”