The full story of how Rhonda Byrne turned a positive thinking realization into “the greatest success story in the annals of viral marketing”-–to quote The American Spectator-–is only now emerging in court papers filed in the US and Australia, and from interviews with the participants. To Byrne, it’s the story of a small group of people bringing “joy to the world”; to some of those involved it’s a story of hypocrisy and ruthless double-dealing.
Like many of her public utterances, the message that Australia’s platinum-haired self-help guru Rhonda Byrne sent out last November to her millions of followers was a rhapsodic outpouring of goodwill. Thanksgiving Day was approaching in the United States, where Byrne now lives in a Californian celebrity enclave just up the road from Oprah Winfrey’s 17-hectare, neo-Georgian estate, and the creator of the New-Age blockbuster The Secret wanted to remind the world about the crucial importance of gratitude.
“Remember,” Byrne wrote, “if you are criticising, you are not being grateful. If you are blaming, you are not being grateful. If you are complaining, you are not being grateful.”
Those are worthy sentiments, but it was an odd time for Byrne to be expressing them because her lawyers had just sued two of the very people who were instrumental in launching her book and film The Secret to phenomenal success. Drew Heriot, the Australian director of the movie, and Dan Hollings, an Arizona internet consultant whose “viral marketing” helped propel Byrne to global fame via Oprah, had both been demanding that Byrne pay them a share of the estimated $US300 million revenue they claim she’d promised them. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, Byrne’s lawyers had counter-attacked by launching legal actions against both men in jurisdictions far from their homes, a tactic one judge has since described as vexatious and harassing.
For a woman whose central message is the power of positivity, Byrne has a surprisingly long history of such bust-ups, stretching back to her days as a television producer in Melbourne. But those past disputes pale next to the legal storms swirling around The Secret, a New-Age marketing phenomenon the like of which has not been seen for decades. It’s a bunfight of cosmic proportions that has drawn into its orbit some of the best-known figures and most fundamental tenets of the global self-help industry…
Continued in The Weekend Australian Magazine.