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Is Scientology using Tommy Davis to get Aussie billionaire James Packer back in the fold?

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Former Church of Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis has a new job, and with a surprising boss. In February, Davis went to work for James Packer, the Australian billionaire Tom Cruise lured into Scientology in late 2001, but who hasn’t been involved in the church since 2006. Davis left his job as church mouthpiece in 2011, and testified in a deposition in December 2013 that he was on leave from Scientology’s “Sea Org,” but was still a member of the church itself.

Davis and his wife, fellow former Scientology spokesperson Jessica Feshbach, moved from Austin to Los Angeles a couple of years ago, and recently added a second daughter to their family. Packer, meanwhile, is engaged to singer Mariah Carey, but the press in Australia reported that their wedding has been put on hold “indefinitely.”

Packer and Davis knew each other well during the time the Aussie billionaire dabbled in Scientology. Davis, the son of actress Anne Archer, was serving as a handler for Tom Cruise, who had brought Packer into the church after a disastrous year of business failures and other pressures. And now, a decade later, Packer has made Davis his “general manager North America” for the family investment firm, Consolidated Press Holdings. According to Tommy’s LinkedIn profile, that means he’ll be helping Packer with, for example, his investments funding movies through CPH’s subsidiary, RatPac Entertainment.

Former Scientology executives who knew Davis said they were stunned when we told them about Tommy’s new job. Marc Headley, who worked at Scientology’s secretive International Base near Hemet, California for 15 years, tell us that it’s hard for him not to believe that Davis is under pressure by the church to convince Packer to return to the Scientology fold. “He’s the perfect guy to go in there on Packer,” Headley says.

We sent an email to Tommy, asking about his new job. We’ll let you know if he gets back to us.

Although Tommy Davis hasn’t been the Church of Scientology’s spokesman since early in 2011, we still get questions about him all the time. Tommy’s antics as the church’s mouthpiece are still remembered fondly by Scientology watchers, particularly his epic showdown with journalist John Sweeney in the 2007 BBC film, Scientology and Me.

But after Lawrence Wright ran rings around Davis for his February 2011 New Yorker article about Paul Haggis — which was the basis for his later book Going Clear, as well as the 2015 documentary by director Alex Gibney of the same name — Davis suddenly dropped out of sight. We discovered that in March 2011, a month after Wright’s article came out, the Church of Scientology International paid for rights to the URLs “whoistommydavis.com” and “whoisjessicafeshbach.com,” which is the format that the church uses for its anonymous smear sites. Someone at the church was apparently making preparations to spread negative information about Tommy and his wife. That’s the best evidence we’ve found for when Davis and Feschbach lost their jobs and left Scientology’s Sea Org. (A “shore story” that Feshbach had experienced a recurrence of childhood cancer turned out to be untrue.)

Those websites never materialized, but Tommy and Jessica vanished, only to show up in Austin, Texas, where Jessica’s deceased father had owned an expensive condo. (Texas seems to be the state of choice for former Scientology executives putting some distance between themselves and the church’s hotbeds in California and Florida.)

We kept tabs on the couple as Jessica took out a local realtor’s license and Tommy went to work for Santa Monica-based Colony Capital, a private equity investment firm headed by Thomas Barrack, Jr.

The last time we had any interaction with Tommy, he had come to New Jersey with his boss as Barrack appeared on a CNBC segment in November 2013. We asked Tommy if he had time to meet with us for lunch in New York, and the former Scientology flack responded, “You’re a delusional, bigoted, hate mongering asshat. Don’t ever email me again.”

A few weeks later, on December 4, 2013, Tommy gave a deposition in Monique Rathbun’s (now withdrawn) lawsuit, and under questioning by attorney Ray Jeffrey, Davis said that he was “on leave” from Scientology’s Sea Org, but that he was still a member of the Church of Scientology itself.

Despite that testimony, a source close to Davis and his wife told us around that time that Davis was actually being critical of Scientology in private emails. We wondered if Anne Archer’s son was moving away from the church entirely.

But that same source tells us that today, things are different, and Davis brooks no criticism of Scientology by those around him.

For his part, Packer was pulled into Scientology when Tom Cruise came to his aid after a disastrous 2001. Packer, the son of famous Australian billionaire Kerry Packer, has admitted that he was at the lowest point of his life. James had lost about $365 million in a bad business deal, and his first marriage was in trouble. Cruise, who Packer had met a few times, then showed up and helped Packer get through his tough times.

By 2004, Packer was so involved in the church, he was hard to miss as the tallest guy in the front row of the celebration that year when Cruise was given a special “Freedom Medal of Valor” by Scientology leader David Miscavige.

 
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Just two years later, however, Packer walked away from Scientology. And in a widely watched televised 2013 interview, Packer described the help he received from Tom Cruise in some depth, but he didn’t mention Scientology at all.

Yesterday, we noticed that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump mentioned on Twitter that he had dined with Tom Barrack the night before. We joked in a tweet of our own that this meant Tommy Davis may have managed to get some face time with the Donald. One of our readers, however, commented that she didn’t think Davis was working for Barrack any longer. That turned out to be correct, and when we realized that Tommy had gone to work for James Packer, we started making phone calls.

Our well-placed source confirmed that Tommy is working for Packer, that he and Jessica now live in a swanky part of Los Angeles, and that they have just had their second child.

Suddenly, Davis being spotted last March having lunch in Los Angeles with James Packer’s ex-wife, Erica Baxter, takes on new importance. (Baxter and Packer are apparently on good terms after their 2013 split; Erica wished James well in his upcoming wedding.)

And now, Tommy is working for Erica’s ex. Here’s how he described his job at his LinkedIn profile: “Management and support for North American investments and assets. Responsible for CPH’s North American business development and investment sourcing and execution. Current investments include Nobu restaurants and hotels, RatPac Entertainment and the future Alon Casino and Resort Las Vegas.”

We asked John P, our longtime reader in the financial markets, to tell us about Tommy’s description of his job.

My first impression is that this is an intentionally vague title. These are sometimes used when a firm is employing a senior executive’s family member in some capacity and they are given a courtesy title that sounds more impressive than their actual responsibilities. In most industries, “general manager” is a fairly important job. A restaurant or retail store would have a general manager, as would a division of a large diversified manufacturing company. The general manager would be responsible for all aspects of operating that business unit, such as achieving sales and profit targets, making hiring and firing decisions, and making most other decisions affecting the health of that unit. But titles work a bit differently in the world of finance. People in that world rarely if ever have the title of “general manager.” If you are one of the senior executives of an investment-oriented firm you would typically be titled “partner” or “managing director.” There are also other titles in use like “portfolio manager,” but I can’t recall coming across a person with the title of “general manager.” Consolidated Press Holdings operates a number of casinos around the world. That’s a unique business, and you don’t get to be a “general manager” of a casino without many years of extensive and very specialized training. I believe Tommy is a “fixer” of some sort within the holding company, and probably has minimal contact with or responsibility for actual operations of any of the business units.

If Marc Headley is correct and Tommy is under pressure to convince his boss to get back on course in Scientology, it would be a major coup if he succeeded. Packer, who Forbes rates as the 453rd richest person on the planet with $3.8 billion in assets, would become Scientology’s richest member, flying past the current record holder, Bob Duggan, who is #638 and worth $3.1 billion.

But would Mariah Carey put up with her fiancé rejoining Scientology? Our sources have their doubts, but we’re trying to get better information on that.

 
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[Back in the day: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes on James Packer’s boat, with Tommy Davis, who is sporting a Sea Org tattoo on his shoulder]

 
UPDATE, May 28: Indefatigable entertainment reporter Roger Friedman got quite a kick out of our story. Friedman knows Tommy Davis from way back, and remembers fending off the feisty former flack when Davis was smacking scribes on behalf of the Church of Scientology.

Friedman points out that the news we broke that Tommy is now working for Australian billionaire James Packer has some interesting implications in Hollywood, where Packer is teamed up with producer/director Brett Ratner and his RatPac Entertainment in order to finance various projects.

Through his sources at RatPac, Friedman found out that Davis is claiming that he’s “renounced” Scientology, which neither of us buys for a minute. As we reported in the story above, a source very close to Tommy says that he brooks no criticism of the church in his presence. But much more telling is what Friedman found, that Tommmy is palling around with Michael Doven — and we hear that he’s even been introducing Doven to people as his best friend.

“You are shitting me,” Marc Headley said when we told him that piece of news. Headley worked as a Sea Org official at Scientology’s secretive International Base in California for 15 years before his harrowing escape, detailed in his excellent book Blown for Good. “Oh, now there’s no question what’s going on,” he added.

Did Tommy, when he was showing Doven around, not expect his new film friends to make use of the Google? A quick search brings up our 2012 Village Voice story about Doven being used for more than a decade to spy on Tom Cruise for Scientology, according to former church executives Marty Rathbun, Mike Rinder, and Claire Headley, who all witnessed Doven delivering reports on Cruise while he was working as the actor’s personal assistant.

So now Tom Cruise’s personal Scientology handler, Tommy Davis, and his longtime Scientology spy, Michael Doven, are gladhanding Hollywood producers on behalf of former Scientology stooge and Australian billionaire James Packer?

Headley says there’s simply no question now that Tommy Davis and Michael Doven are working on James Packer on behalf of Scientology leader David Miscavige, who is the only person in the church who would oversee or sign off on such an operation.

Oh, this is almost too good to be true. We can’t wait to find out more from Friedman, who really knows the players in the film world.

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on May 27, 2016 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes 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 book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
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

Other links: 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 | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield

 

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