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Scientology loses a whale: Major donor Michael Baybak dead at 77

[Michael Baybak in 2014]

The Church of Scientology has lost one of its all-time biggest donors, businessman Michael Baybak, who died last week at 77.

Until he was eclipsed by an even richer couple, Bob and Trish Duggan, Baybak was Scientology’s biggest moneybags, and his status was reflected in his seating on the front row of the 2013 grand opening celebration of Scientology’s all-time biggest building project, the Flag Building, also known as “Super Power”: Baybak was seated front and center, right next to Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kelly Preston [see below].

Baybak was already a 20-year Scientology veteran when he was cited as a shady business operator in a sidebar to Time magazine’s milestone 1991 cover story, “The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power.” Here’s part of the section on Baybak…

One source of funds for the Los Angeles-based church is the notorious, self-regulated stock exchange in Vancouver, British Columbia, often called the scam capital of the world. The exchange’s 2,300 penny-stock listings account for $4 billion in annual trading. Local journalists and insiders claim the vast majority range from total washouts to outright frauds.

Two Scientologists who operate there are Kenneth Gerbino and Michael Baybak, 20-year church veterans from Beverly Hills who are major donors to the cult. Gerbino, 45, is a money manager, marketmaker and publisher of a national financial newsletter. He has boasted in Scientology journals that he owes all his stock-picking success to L. Ron Hubbard. That’s not saying much: Gerbino’s newsletter picks since 1985 have cumulatively returned 24%, while the Dow Jones industrial average has more than doubled. Nevertheless Gerbino’s short-term gains can be stupendous. A survey last October found Gerbino to be the only manager who made money in the third quarter of 1990, thanks to gold and other resource stocks. For the first quarter of 1991, Gerbino was dead last. Baybak, 49, who runs a public relations company staffed with Scientologists, apparently has no ethics problem with engineering a hostile takeover of a firm he is hired to promote.

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Neither man agreed to be interviewed for this story, yet both threatened legal action through attorneys. “What these guys do is take over companies, hype the stock, sell their shares, and then there’s nothing left,” says John Campbell, a former securities lawyer who was a director of mining company Athena Gold until Baybak and Gerbino took it over.

The pattern has become familiar. The pair promoted a mining venture called Skylark Resources, whose stock traded at nearly $4 a share in 1987. The outfit soon crashed, and the stock is around 2 cents. NETI Technologies, a software company, was trumpeted in the press as “the next Xerox” and in 1984 rose to a market value of $120 million with Baybak’s help. The company, which later collapsed, was delisted two months ago by the Vancouver exchange.

Baybak appeared in 1989 at the helm of Wall Street Ventures, a start-up that announced it owned 35 tons of rare Middle Eastern postage stamps — worth $100 million — and was buying the world’s largest collection of southern Arabian stamps (worth $350 million). Steven C. Rockefeller Jr. of the oil family and former hockey star Denis Potvin joined the company in top posts, but both say they quit when they realized the stamps were virtually worthless. “The stamps were created by sand-dune nations to exploit collectors,” says Michael Laurence, editor of Linn’s Stamp News, America’s largest stamp journal. After the stock topped $6, it began a steady descent, with Baybak unloading his shares along the way. Today it trades at 18 cents.

Scientology sued Time for $416 million over that Richard Behar cover story, and Baybak sued separately as well. Time defeated the Scientology lawsuit, and agreed to settle Baybak’s suit by publishing a statement in a 1996 issue: “Time’s report on Mr. Baybak, a member of the church, was not intended to suggest that Mr. Baybak was a ‘front’ for the Church of Scientology or that his actions were in violation of any law or regulation.”

As Baybak and other wealthy Scientologists donated more and more to Scientology’s defense fund, the International Association of Scientologists or IAS, the church came up with more and more elaborate “statuses” for them to obtain, including fancy trophies, to encourage them to give ever more. But very few of the donors receive the singular honor of having church leader David Miscavige pose with them and their new trophy, as the Baybaks did in 2009 when Michael was bestowed the title “Patron Excalibur” for donating an estimated cumulative amount of $15 million.

 

 
But in recent years, the Baybaks have not appeared in IAS photo galleries, and on occasion we’ve received questions from readers about what had happened to him.

In 2014, we reported that Baybak was hosting a Clearwater political fundraiser for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Congressman David Jolly. But we really didn’t hear anything about the Baybaks after that.

In a brief statement from the mining company he ran, Avino Silver & Gold Mines said that Baybak was “born on December 14, 1941 in Merefa, Ukraine, his family immigrated to the United States by way of Ellis Island in 1948. Mr. Baybak was a fierce champion for liberty, he wrote for Freedom Magazine and was a Board Member of the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights. Mr. Baybak is survived by his wife of nearly 40 years, 5 children and 3 grandchildren.”

There was no mention that Freedom is Scientology’s propaganda organ, or that CCHR is also a Scientology front group.

Although Baybak was OT 8 Oops, took this from an Internet report, but checking further this isn’t true. Baybak completed Super Power in 2016, three years after the building’s dedication, but despite his decades in Scientology and the millions he gave, he was just a middling achiever on the Bridge to Total Freedom, and didn’t get to the OT levels. But at least he lived three years longer than the Commodore, who died at 74.

 

[The very brief ceremony officially opening the ‘Super Power’ Building in 2013]

 
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HowdyCon 2019 in Los Angeles

THURSDAY NIGHT OPPORTUNITY: This year’s HowdyCon is in Los Angeles. People tend to come in starting on Thursday, and that evening we will have a casual get-together at a watering hole. But we also want to point out that Cathy Schenkelberg’s “Squeeze My Cans” will be running at the Hollywood Fringe, and we encourage HowdyCon attendees to see her show on Thursday night, June 20. Tickets and more dates available here.

Friday night June 21 we will be having an event in a theater (like we did on Saturday night last year in Chicago). There will not be a charge to attend this event, but if you want to attend, you need to RSVP with your proprietor at tonyo94 AT gmail.

On Saturday, we are joining forces with Janis Gillham Grady, who is having a reunion in honor of the late Bill Franks. Originally, we thought this event might take place in Riverside, but instead it’s in the Los Angeles area. If you wish to attend the reunion, you will need to RSVP with Janis (janisgrady AT gmail), and there will be a small contribution she’s asking for in order to help cover her costs.

HOTEL: Janis tells us she’s worked out a deal with Hampton Inn and Suites, at 7501 North Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, (818) 768-1106. We have a $159 nightly rate for June 19 to 22. Note: You need to ask for the “family reunion” special rate.

 

 
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Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Elisabeth Moss, Michael Peña, and Laura Prepon]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?

 
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THE WHOLE TRACK

[ONE year ago] Jack Parsons is getting his star-turn next month, but we’ll have to wait for L. Ron Hubbard
[TWO years ago] Google helps Scientology censor two more of our stories — maybe you can help us figure out why
[THREE years ago] Scientology makes you a god who can heal this horse just with your finger
[FOUR years ago] DOX: How Scientology ensnares the unsuspecting in a series of binding contracts
[FIVE years ago] Scientology Hip Hop: Is there anything better in the world?
[SIX years ago] Meet Dennis Nobbe, Miami Chiropractor and Scientologist!
[SEVEN years ago] L. Ron Hubbard in his Own Words: Mr. Charisma?

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,454 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,583 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,087 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,607 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 627 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 518 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,825 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,693 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,467 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,241 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,587 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,153 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,073 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,240 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,821 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,082 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,121 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,833 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,359 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,448 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,588 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,908 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,764 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,883 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,239 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,541 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,647 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,049 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,921 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,504 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,999 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,253 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,362 days.

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Posted by Tony Ortega on May 22, 2019 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists | GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice | SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts | Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele

 

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