Gentle readers, we have an unusual and, we must say, rather mystifying story to tell you today. It’s about a successful businessman by the name of Robert W. Duggan. This illustration of Bob, who is a robust 70 years old, is inspired by an image from his personal website, which we encourage you to visit.
Bob’s website has several different pages. We learn from them that as a kid from Berkeley and San Jose, Bob was an avid sportsman. He grew up loving to surf and play tennis, and he even once ran the Palo Alto marathon in 2 hours and 49 minutes, which, if you didn’t know, is seriously fast for an amateur. (We once ran a half-marathon and it took longer than that, we’re pretty sure.)
Bob studied economics at UC Santa Barbara in the class of 1966, and also studied business management for a couple of years at UCLA, taking a degree from neither. But while he was at UCSB, he met the woman who would become his wife, Patricia J. Hagerty, better known as Trish. At her Twitter page, Trish uses a photo of herself with a cheetah. Here’s our illustration of it.
We’re not sure what the deal with the cheetah is, but Trish studied art at Santa Barbara and she’s known for her work in sculpture today. We encourage you to go through her online gallery, where you will find that she does hauntingly beautiful work in blue glass. We’ll take just a small snapshot of her gallery, purely for informational purposes…
We think it’s fun that Trish plays with space alien motifs in her art. In 1975, she and Bob got involved in Scientology, and if you’ve seen a certain 2005 episode of South Park, you know that Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard had some really intriguing ideas about outer space visitors to the planet Earth.
Bob and Trish Duggan are very big fans of Mr. Hubbard, and they have been awarded repeatedly for being the most generous members of the Church of Scientology. In fact, they donate so much more to the church than anyone else, Scientology leader David Miscavige keeps making bigger and bigger trophies to recognize their gifts to the International Association of Scientologists (IAS)….
In the magazine’s most recent issue, reporting on an event last fall, it was announced that the Duggans had reached a new IAS level of giving that had to be invented for them, called “Diamond Maximus with Honors.” Our sources, some of whom actually worked with Scientology’s charitable giving, tell us that in order to reach that level, the Duggans have donated something in the neighborhood of $50 million, more than double what Forbes magazine estimated last year.
It’s no wonder the Duggans are the only donors Miscavige poses with in Impact magazine photos each year — he doesn’t do that for anyone else, even the church members who have given more than $10 million. (Here, see for yourself.)
Also, the Duggans give a lot more than just to the IAS. They’ve also given huge amounts for some Scientology building projects. And at their websites, Bob and Trish make it clear that they give to other causes as well, which is only fair, because they are seriously loaded.
According to Forbes magazine, Bob Duggan is the 395th richest American, and the 1,164th richest person on the planet, worth $1.5 billion.
How did a surfer from UC Santa Barbara end up so rich? Well, Bob’s been a risk-taking entrepreneur and savvy investor for decades, but there’s also a bittersweet and dramatic tale for how he and Trish ended up in the .001 percent of the world’s earners. In 1997, the Duggans lost a son to cancer, and five years later, Bob made an investment in a promising pharmaceutical concern called Pharmacyclics that was struggling to bring a cancer drug to market.
That drug failed, but Pharmacyclics then picked up another drug, Imbruvica, and Duggan took control of the company, becoming its CEO and placing a slate of his hand-picked directors in 2008.
“Imbruvica…turned out to be a potent treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, shrinking tumors in 58 percent of patients failed by all other drugs, and mantle cell lymphoma, a rarer disease. Johnson & Johnson inked a $975 million deal to copromote Imbruvica in 2011, beating out other Big Pharmas, and Pharmacyclics’ stock has risen fortyfold…turning [Duggan’s] stake into a $1.4 billion fortune,” wrote Forbes magazine earlier this year.
After losing a child to cancer, the Duggans now have the chance to help countless others with a great new drug — and have managed to become super wealthy in the process.
Bob and Trish Duggan have been generous in other ways as well. We’ll explain what we mean by looking at yet another of Bob’s websites, which includes this portion we’ve snipped…
As you can see from that list of biographical information, Bob and Trish have a very large family. In addition to a biological daughter, they have adopted six other children as their own, and gave them all names that begin with the letter “D.” Like Bob, they’re all sports fans, as explained on one of Bob’s websites…
“Since moving to Palo Alto, he and all of his six adopted children are big fans of the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, since they know that he is also adopted.”
So Bob and Trish have six adopted kids, and they live in Palo Alto and root for the 49ers. Hey, that’s great.
Except, that’s not entirely true.
Now we’re going to tell you about something that you can’t find on the websites of either Bob or Trish or Forbes magazine. And in order to tell this part of the story, we want to introduce you to a fellow named Charlie Mikich.
This illustration of Charlie shows him with his youngest of two daughters. Charlie is not a wealthy person. He’s been through some tough times, scraping by and living a pretty uprooted life that’s taken him all around the country.
More than a decade ago, he hooked up with another uprooted person, a young woman he met on a long Greyhound bus ride to San Francisco. They moved in together, then kept moving. They got pregnant in Texas, and they had a son in Cut Bank, Montana in August 2001.
For the purposes of this story, we’ll refer to that little boy simply as “V.”
Charlie’s restless girlfriend left for Santa Barbara and then sent for him. By the time Charlie and his infant son got there, his girlfriend was homeless and pregnant by another man. (She had the boy, and we’ll refer to him — V’s half brother — as “T.”) Charlie tried to care for V on his own, but the county stepped in and placed the boy with foster parents who ended up adopting the boy.
Some ten years later, when Charlie had his first daughter, the state, concerned about Charlie’s history, tried to take the girl away. During testimony in the ensuing court battle, Charlie was asked about his son, V. In a court transcript Charlie supplied us, you can see his daughter is referred to as “A.M.” and his son as “V.D.”…
Charlie won that court battle, and has custody of both of his daughters today. But a decade earlier, he didn’t have an attorney, and he says he had little choice but to agree to let a wealthy local couple, Bob and Trish Duggan, adopt his son. They also adopted V’s half-brother, T.
Charlie says it was Trish Duggan he worked with, arranging the details of the adoption. Although Charlie says he didn’t like the idea, the Duggans changed the boy’s name to begin with a “D.” They also changed the name of V’s half-brother.
Charlie says that he last had contact with V when the boy was about two years old, and the last photo he received was when the boy was three. Since having his battle over his daughters, he now says that he regrets not fighting to hang onto his son, and is still interested in being a part of his life. But he hasn’t heard anything about V in years.
So Charlie was very surprised when we told him we had photos of V at 11 and 12 years old. And in this next section we’ll tell you why we had them.
These folks are Shelley Ashurst, her husband Andrew Jackson, and their daughter Dominique Sundelowitz. They live in Johannesburg, South Africa, and until recently they were very active longtime Scientologists.
Shelley explained to us that in 2012, her husband Andrew was involved with a church project that was having some trouble. Andrew was a subcontractor on a project to renovate a building in Pretoria to become Scientology’s next “Ideal Org.”
The Ideal Org program is the brainchild of Scientology leader David Miscavige who, in 2002, began pushing for ordinary churches — called “orgs,” short for organizations — to be replaced by more elaborate facilities, often in renovated historic buildings. Funding for these projects is the responsibility of local church members, who often struggle to raise the millions of dollars it takes to create an Ideal Org. In various cities — Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia — Ideal Org projects are stalled as local fundraising has been inadequate to complete renovations.
Don’t take our word for it. Here’s a recent story that appeared in the Boston Globe about the difficulty Scientology has had with the Ideal Org project in that city.
In the summer of 2012, a similar situation had stalled construction in Pretoria, and Andrew says he was told by the project manager that the church was in default, short millions of dollars (US) to get the work completed.
Then, in October of that year, a man from the local area was sent to the United States in the hopes of finding a solution to the problem. That man was Robin Hogarth.
Robin had a website (still archived) where he described his work as a music producer. In 2007 and 2008, albums by the Soweto Gospel Choir that Robin produced won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album. Also, Robin is married to Shelley Ashurst’s sister, Carol.
Robin made his trip to the US looking for help with Scientology’s South Africa construction projects in October 2012 and returned around the middle of November, according to notes that Carol put on Facebook. At that time, Shelley and Andrew say, Robin gave the local Scientologists a briefing.
“He said people in America love South Africa. And there was one guy who could literally write one check to pay for all of South Africa’s ideal orgs,” Andrew tells us.
As 2012 ended, however, the Pretoria project still seemed to be dead in the water. “They closed down over Christmas because they had no money,” Andrew says.
And then, suddenly, there was plenty of money. “The arrears were taken care of suddenly,” Andrew says. After the first of the year there was a mad dash to get things done. After no progress for months, now they had just weeks to prepare the place for its February 23, 2013 grand opening.
“We were working up until half an hour before the ribbon cutting,” Andrew says.
Suddenly flush with cash, the Pretoria Ideal Org got done on time. And it wasn’t just Scientology that was going through major changes. Around the same time the Pretoria Ideal Org was finished, Shelley Ashurst learned that her sister Carol and her husband Robin had a new member of their household.
“The next thing I heard was that Carol and Robin had acquired a Duggan child,” Shelley says. “Carol had never had children. She doesn’t like children. Their lifestyle was utterly unsuited for this. They’re 65 and 54 and are never home.”
Shelley and her family say that Carol and Robin had somehow become the caretaker for one of the adopted children of Bob and Trish Duggan.
Shelley first met the boy herself in March. And then in May, on Mothers Day 2013 in South Africa — which is celebrated the same day it is in the US — Shelley visited with her sister at the Johannesburg zoo for a concert in the park. Shelley took several photographs that day, which she sent us. We’ll show you one of them, which features her sister Carol and the boy, whose face we’ve obscured.
We sent copies of the unredacted photos to Charlie Mikich, who positively identified the child as V, his son who was born in August 2001. Charlie was stunned, telling us he had no idea that his son was in South Africa.
Shelley and Andrew and other South African Scientologists tell us that in fact, two of the boys adopted by the Duggans were sent to South African families early in 2013. (V’s half-brother, T, was not one of them. He is still with the Duggans as far as we know.)
Shelley also says that Carol needed a lot of help taking care of the boy, and Shelley’s daughter Dominique, and her daughter-in-law Kirsty Viljoen, were asked to help out. We talked to both young women, who described what it was like to care for V. Dominique says she was paid 10,000 Rand (about $1,000) a week by her aunt, which is extremely high for such work in South Africa.
But Robin and Carol seemed to have plenty of money. In May 2013, Robin went to Clearwater, Florida and finally completed OT 7, the difficult and expensive Scientology level that can take some people years to finish. Carol was thrilled and planned to take a whirlwind trip with him, as she explained on Facebook…
Then, just two months later in July 2013, Robin completed another expensive Scientology course, this time finishing “OT 8,” the highest level of achievement, which is delivered on the church’s private cruise ship, the Freewinds.
Meanwhile, in South Africa the church continues to push for new Ideal Orgs, and in a recent church flier which made its way to us, we noticed that there was no doubt who is considered the most generous of South Africa’s donors — so generous, they alone are given the status “Legend”…
For some reason, the Duggans have chosen to pour money into South Africa’s projects while Ideal Org renovations in their home state of California (particularly in Mountain View and the San Fernando Valley) have struggled to complete funding, along with many other locations in the United States.
While the Duggans prop up Scientology in South Africa, and while two of their adopted sons are being cared for by families there, Shelley and Andrew and their children have given up on the church. They split with Scientology, and it was one of the things that created a rift between Shelley and her sister, Carol.
And so Shelley is speaking out today, confirming that her sister is caring for the Duggan child.
At one point, Shelley says, she criticized her sister about the arrangement.
“Carol went ballistic,” Shelley says.
Soon after that, on March 16, 2014, Carol posted this on Facebook…
“This is an astonishing story — but there is more to be revealed which you can expect will now be forthcoming,” says former Scientology spokesman and legal affairs executive Mike Rinder, who left the organization in 2007. “The church obviously thought this wasn’t going to get out — the people they selected to participate were all ‘high on the Bridge,’ long term Scientologists with extensive familial connections. They believed this would keep them quiet, and it probably would have except some of these people started wondering what the hell was going on with the constant demands for money, got a bit uppity, and then were declared suppressive [Scientology’s version of excommunication]. I said at the time they were kicked out it would backfire on the church, and this revelation is further proof that Scientology has lost control over its South African ’empire’.”
We sent email messages to Robin and Carol Hogarth and received no replies. When we called Robin Hogarth yesterday, he acknowledged that he’d received our email but declined to talk to us. We called and emailed Pharmacyclics and gave a detailed explanation for why we wanted a statement, but received no answer. We emailed Bob and Trish Duggan directly, and heard nothing back.
This Friday night, Scientology will once again hold its annual IAS gala in East Grinstead, England, and church leader David Miscavige will give his customary two-hour presentation about all of the past year’s accomplishments by the organization’s various front groups. On another night over the weekend, the year’s big donors will be recognized.
The Duggans may be in town to receive another large trophy from Miscavige. If a British journalist manages to catch up with them, we would sure appreciate it if they would ask the Duggans about the coincidental timing of their largesse to the Scientology churches in South Africa and their adopted sons going there to stay.
We checked in with Charlie Mikich this week, to see if he had heard anything new from the Duggans. He hadn’t. But he told us that he’s started a new chapter of his life in Key West, and he’s still anxious to get more news of his son.
“I think if there’s any way I could get him back to where he belongs, I would,” he told us.
For now, Charlie’s son is living with Carol and Robin Hogarth and are home after some recent travel.
Posted by Tony Ortega on October 15, 2014 at 07:00
E-mail your tips and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49