JT Foxx: World’s Number 1 Trier

UPDATE: A shorter version of this post has now been published on Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster. You’ll find the link in the “Clips” section of the site. 

The ads appeared relentlessly on Facebook in the days leading up to the event. Some were pink, featuring the slogan “Women make the best speakers” alongside a photograph of the so-called JT Foxx. Some users pointed out the irony in the comments section and afterwards, the ads I saw looked more like this:
j t foxx facebook ad.png

JT Foxx, formerly known as Justin Gorenko, advertises himself as the world’s number 1 wealth coach and a billionaire in the making.

But despite his cunning-sounding surname and the gravity implied by the two initials that precede it, JT Foxx doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page to his name.

The Berlin event was to take place all day Thursday in a remote hotel beyond Schönefeld airport. The tagline? Start unknown, Finish Unforgettable.

Who on earth, I wondered, attends such events?

I signed up.

I prepared by watching a poorly produced and comically absurd promotional documentary titled JT Foxx: A biography: The Untold Story of a Millionaire Underdog. It includes awkwardly staged endorsements from Eric Trump, son of the US president as well as actor Al Pacino. The video claims to be produced by ‘Hollywood Kingmaker Films,’ an impressive-sounding entity I can’t find mention of anywhere else on the Internet.

JT Fox’s Facebook page also features several examples of his appearance on the cover of magazines, including this one:

j t foxx business mag .jpg

The incorrect placement of the euro sign was one indication that this may not be a high-caliber publication. Another was the appearance of the publication’s website, which features JT Foxx’s associate Francie Baldwin on a different cover.

Having done some research, I went into the event expecting to encounter a charlatan and a group of people ready to be told that this was the first day of the rest of their lives.

But I was unprepared for the depth of moral debasement* that lay ahead.

The walk from the airport train station to the hotel takes you past fields and down roads decidedly off the beaten track.

It wasn’t long before I met others going the same way.

The dress-code was the giveaway. The men were in suits and carried briefcases. The women were wearing dresses and heels. One told me she was a musician from London. She’d just brought out an album but needed to make some money. Speaking, she’d thought, could be the way.

At the hotel, we lined up to be registered by a young man with a crew cut and the kind of faraway, smug expression associated with those who see themselves as uniquely enlightened.

hotel

The hotel were the mega speaking event took place

At 9 o’clock the doors opened and we were ushered into a nondescript conference room. The opening act was a man called Reggie Batts. Tall, attractive and self-assured, he told us there were two types of people in the world: “right-brainers” and “left-brainers.”

The former act impulsively, the latter think first. Right-brainers always burst in the door and sit at the front. Left-brainers wait for the others to shuffle in, then take their seats at the back. In the front row, a middle-aged woman in a headscarf nodded along enthusiastically, frequently blurting out “yes!”

This binary view lay the foundation for the oppositions J T Foxx would later present to us as facts of the world: there are winners and losers; his followers and the haters; touchy-feely women and tough, money-loving men.

His own entrance was underwhelming. Less charismatic than the support act and sporting two pins on his lapel (one the American flag, the other the German) he opened with a rant about Berlin’s airports.

In the hours that followed, J T Foxx fed the 167 people gathered a cocktail of hyperbole concerning his fame and wealth, vacuous clichés masquerading as business advice and menacing sales pitches.

Early on, he told us that by the end of the day, he would have selected ten people to make into star speakers. “If you’re not one of the ten, your life won’t change.”

He listed his celebrity connections with risible zeal. They include Al Pacino, John Travolta, 50 Cent and his “good friend” Vanilla Ice. He admits to paying them tens of thousands of dollars to appear on stage with him, so that he can use the footage to boost his online image.

Many of the clips I had already seen in the documentary resurfaced during the presentation.

In a tragic attempt to flaunt his supposed wealth, he claimed the watch he was wearing cost more than a million dollars and that the previous Friday he had “made a million in 90 minutes.”

At one point, perhaps in an attempt to assert his authority, he rounded on a member of the audience.

“You’re not fucking writing anything down!” he said, segueing clumsily into an anecdote about Richard Branson (just one of the many millionaires he purports to hang out with) who apparently refuses to do business with anyone who doesn’t take notes during meetings.

T Foxx makes no secret of the fact that his brand is built upon the celebrity connections he has bought.

He claims to pay Travolta, a known Scientologist, half a million dollars for a joint appearance. His connection with the Hollywood A-lister apparently earns him enough street cred to make him back the money he invested several times over.

He described an instance when he annoyed Travolta by going off-script, putting him on the spot and making him perform a song from  Grease during a paid appearance. It was part of a plot engineered to generate more clicks on the Internet. He said it worked though the relationship with Travolta soured as a result. (Footage of that event can be seen  here)

“He’s never quite forgiven me,” Foxx said. “He’s a Scientologist. And they have 14 stages of forgiveness.”

Perhaps it was a moment of indiscretion or an attempt to boast about the intimacy of his connection.

But he continued:

“I’m not a Scientologist … For one, they give 20% of their income to the church… “I would never do that … I might put 20 euros on a collection plate.”

“I’m Catholic,” he added, pointing to the existence of a photograph of himself as a young altar boy which could prove it.

The deflection came too late. I had already perked up.

Scientology provided a good starting point for investigating the foul whiff of dodge associated with this event. It also helped me uncover a whole lot more about who the real JT Foxx is.

Let’s start from the beginning.

JT Foxx is actually a Canadian called Justin Gorenko who has had several run-ins with the law.

According to a report cited by Cult Education, in 2014 a woman named Victoria Comfort accused him of defrauding her of $92,000, of which $14,000 went to a lecture series presented by Foxx’s employee Meir Ezra, who allegedly used the events to promote Scientology. Both parties later agreed to arbitration.

But that wasn’t JT Foxx’s first time in court. Two years prior, he was sued by a high school student with whom he allegedly tried to have a sexual relationship, and two former employees who accused him of harassment. The outcome of that case does not appear to be available online.

He has been on the motivational speaking/business coaching circuit for several years and reports of dubious events similar to the one I attended date back to at least 2011.

Keen to show he is not afraid of a lawsuit, J T Foxx warned those gathered in Berlin that he would not hesitate to sue anyone who published a report of what went on that day. “I might lose,” he said. “But I’ve got $50,000 to burn … Do you?”

The first product JT Foxx tried to sell in Berlin seemed harmless enough: a set of DVDs, apparently featuring business advice he himself had paid a former coach $250,000 for. The catch was that there were only 15 copies available. They would be for sale at the back of the room during the first break. The woman in the headscarf was among several people who joined the line to buy.

As the rest of us filed out, I was desperate to find out how the rest of the crowd felt about JT Foxx.

“He sure knows how to close,” a middle-aged man said in German. “You could learn something from him.”

“I don’t like his way of selling,” a young man from Köpenick said, to which an older woman who frequently attends events like these retorted: “You’ve got the wrong mind-set.”

Things took a more sinister turn after the break, when JT Foxx began speaking about women.

“Most women can’t sell” he said, claiming that they “love telling their sad story.”

This led to an anecdote about a first date with a beautiful woman who told him 36 minutes in that she’d been raped.  This proved a massive turn-off for JT, who told us that: “No one cares about your problems. They only care about themselves.”

Further enlightened views about women included boasting about his connections with the winner of Miss Capetown and that he was considering “buying the Pageant.”

miss capetown twitter.png

He also reeled off some remarkable statistics, including this gem:

“90 % of German women will ask their German husbands before buying a coaching program,” he said.

The problem is that the men are often resistant. This, says JT Foxx, is “because men don’t want women to make more money.”

He admitted that three women he personally coaches are having “spousal issues” as a result.

He cautioned against women’s tendency to care for other people (in JT Foxx parlance this is “broken wing syndrome”) and encouraged them to see money more like he, and other men do, “as a game.”

The purpose of the rest of the event was to “select” the ten people who were to become mega speakers.

This is how it happened.

We were given a sheet of paper with four “options.” Our job was to write down the usual prices and then the incredible, one-day-only-just-for-Berlin offer.sheet

Option 1: a day of one-on-one coaching or four days of group coaching with J T Foxx. The cost – today only: €4000.

Option 2: Getting coached at JT’s mansion, either in Florida or Thailand: a steal at just €8000.

Option 3 and 4 were for people who really meant to “take action:”

The opportunity to speak for 15 minutes in front of a large crowd at South Africa’s “Money, Wealth & Business” conference: €12,500. A unique opportunity to build your brand.

Finally, the ultimate prize: the once-in-a-lifetime, career-enhancing opportunity to interview either Al Pacino or Mark Wahlberg only €20,000.

Those who really wanted to “take action” were to go to the back of the room to sign up during the second break.

At least eight people did, most of them young women.

Towards the end of the day, another speaker named Francie Baldwin (she of Business Fit magazine fame) took to the stage to talk about marketing. Her purpose was to fill time while the people who had been “selected” were taken outside for one-on-one interviews with members of JT Foxx’s team.

I left the event at this point, because I had to get to work. By that time, several others had already left. On my way out, I passed one of the young women “being interviewed.” There was a lot of nodding going on. When tens of thousands are at stake, reassurance is essential.

In the days before, JT Foxx had held similar events in Singapore, Dublin, Manchester, London, Birmingham, Stockholm, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Amsterdam. His next stops were Frankfurt and Zurich.

foxx schedule

And each time, he was likely to get what he needed: a handful of people willing to gamble away their life’s savings for a shot at stardom.

It was a sobering event that felt like an episode of Black Mirror: bleak and uncomfortable; a terrifying reflection of reality.

But the bridge between the world’s unfortunates and those whose mission it is to exploit them lies in enlightenment.

The truth has a way of coming out.

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*My personal definition of moral debasement includes demeaning a woman for opening up about her experience of rape, threatening people with a lawsuit for publishing the truth about an event and charging extortionate sums of money for the “privilege” of performing at a speaking service.

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Postscript:

Sections of this blog post have been slightly amended since the original publication for the sake of clarity. 

I don’t have the time or resources to answer the following questions. But perhaps someone reading this post may know something that will help us together to form a more coherent picture of who JT Foxx is and what he does. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail if you have any insights!

Why are celebrities like Al Pacino, John Travolta, 50 Cent, Vanilla Ice and Mark Wahlberg accepting cash in exchange for appearing on-stage with J T Foxx?

Why have JT Foxx’s connections to Eric Trump not attracted more comment? Even a superficial online search reveals evidence of a relationship dating back years.

foxx and trump

JT Foxx describes George Ross, Vice President of the Trump Organisation, as his right-hand man. That prompts the question: what, if any, if J T Foxx’s connection to the US president? 

george ross.png

 

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Five reasons The Wolf of Wall Street should not win an Oscar

I went to see The Wolf of Wall Street. I really shouldn’t have. I can’t think of any film I’ve ever enjoyed less. I’ve racked my brains but – nothing. It’s the worst. At 180 minutes, it’s also practically interminable.

It’s about an entirely one-dimensional stockbroker called Jordan Belfort whose primary concerns are making money, snorting cocaine and paying women to have sex with him. So far, so Wall Street cliché.

Belfort starts small by fraudulently trading low-value penny stocks and goes on to develop a financial empire. He becomes addicted to drugs, yachts, sports cars and prostitutes. His relationships crumble and –here’s what you definitely weren’t expecting – so does his business.

Image source: Wikipedia

Image source: Wikipedia

If the story itself is dull, the way it’s told is offensively mundane. The clichés of excess are repeated ad nauseam. When Belfort is not cultivating a cult of personality on the trading floor, he’s either in a drug-induced state of delirium or the company of a prostitute. On two occasions, the twin traits of substance abuse and misogyny are artfully combined when Belfort snorts cocaine from a prostitute’s butt crack and later from his girlfriend’s cleavage.

If that weren’t bad enough, Belfort narrates the film’s events in an amazingly irritating and over-stated voice-over.

You might have guessed by now that I’m not exactly a fan of this film, which has inexplicably been nominated for five Academy Awards. Here are as many reasons The Wolf of Wall Street shouldn’t win any:

1. It’s not believable

Although it’s based on a true story, it manages to come across entirely implausible. Given the insane lifestyle Belfort leads, there’s no way he’d be in a position to develop a multi-billion dollar business in such a short space of time, nor would he be able to train his incestuous and apparently simpleton employees to trick intelligent people into investing millions in stocks they hadn’t heard of.

2. It lacks subtlety.

For three hours, we are subjected to endless scenes of debauchery and excess. The tired stereotype is then drilled in further with Belford’s tedious voice-over in which he reinforces his addiction to money, drugs and sex. It’s just too one-dimensional to be realistic, not funny enough to be a farce and not subtle enough to be poignant. It has no message whatsoever.

3. No character development

None of the characters develop in any way. Belfort remains obsessed with money, power and sex, as do his employees. Belfort’s father is just another flat supporting character with an unexplained anger control problem. Belfort’s first wife doesn’t have any identifiable personality in the first place (she is, after all, a woman) and his second uses sex as a currency from beginning to end. All the other women are prostitutes, who have no discernible thoughts, feelings or intentions.

4. Ridiculous depiction of women

Belfort’s first wife plays an extremely minor role, which is limited to helping him find his job trading penny stocks and being hysterical when she catches him with the woman who is to become his second wife. His second wife, who marries him for his money, communicates entirely through sex. She is more attractive than his first wife, so she doesn’t have to bother giving Belfort any emotional support. Instead, she has sex with him in exchange for yachts and jewellery and deprives him of it as a punishment.

5. It’s too long.

Every time the screen darkened my heart leapt with anticipation. But it carried on, relentlessly. Since there was no character development, no believable plot and no message to interpret, I just sat there, counting down the minutes.

In hindsight, I should really have invested the cost of the ticket into a penny stock… But like so many, I was duped into a highly dodgy investment.

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The real Jordan Belfort seems pretty insufferable too. But at least he’s real: