Who is James Arthur Ray?
The way sweat lodge survivor Beverly Bunn described his behavior in her TV interviews last week (click here for ABC News’ Web tie-in to her Good Morning America appearance) he sounds like a sociopath. He literally turned his back on the carnage and walked away; a staffer left notes for the participants who hadn’t been hospitalized the next morning, saying that he was “in prayer and meditation.” As we know from his website, he’s undertaken his own investigation of the incident, which I imagine will be at least as thorough-going and aggressive as the one that OJ Simpson launched to find his ex-wife’s murderer.
Ray’s publicity materials don’t provide a lot of detail about his past before The Secret , Oprah, and Larry King turned him into a bonafide star in 2006. They tell us that “he has traveled the globe dedicating over two decades of his life to studying the thoughts, actions, and habits of those who create true wealth in every area of their life,” and that he has studied the ancient cultures of Peru, the Amazon, and Egypt. From a profile in Fortune Magazine that appeared last year, entitled The Man Who Would be Robbins, Covey, and Chopra, I learned that he is 51 years old, attended Tulsa Junior College, and worked as an instructor for the Stephen Covey program for a while. He is divorced and childless; his father Dr. A. Gordon Ray was a minister when Ray was growing up in Tulsa. Ray Senior has a motivational speaking business of his own that promises total health and unlimited wealth: click here to see a sampling of his products, which have a much lower retail price than his son’s.
From Fortune I learned that the $9695 price tag for the Spiritual Warrior retreat was a bargain of sorts; some of Ray’s lucky clients pay him $60,000 for a year’s worth of unlimited access to “all things Ray.” I wonder how many takers he’ll have for that program next year. The ironic thing about the article is that it’s all about how his brand is poised for massive growth:
Ray says 5,500 people paid for his seminars last year, and thousands more saw him free or at events where he was a paid speaker. He was paid a seven-figure advance for his book, and his revenues have grown, he claims, from $1 million in 2005 to an estimated $10 million next year.
His financial goal – or “bogey,” his term – is $21 million a year, spread across books, TV, and putting video of himself all over the Web. Going by Marketdata estimates, $21 million would put him roughly in the same league as Ziglar and make him about half as big as Robbins in 2005. What is the “limiting belief” standing between him and his goals, I wondered. “That’s a good question,” he says, pausing. “I’m sure that I have them and I’m not aware of them.”
When someone gets around to writing a real biography of Ray, it just might turn out to be an American classic–an Elmer Gantry for our times. Click here , here, and here to read my earlier posts on Ray.