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The man who gave Scientology $360 million actually answered the phone

Absent from Scientology publications since his 2017 divorce, Bob Duggan had a lot to say. He tells the Times he’s still a dedicated member and donor.
Bob Duggan, second from right, receives the 2016 Venky Award from Rod Alferness, dean of the College of Engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Duggan, a longtime Church of Scientology member, says he has given much more to church causes than the previously reported $360 million, and continues to do so. [ERIC ISAACS]
Bob Duggan, second from right, receives the 2016 Venky Award from Rod Alferness, dean of the College of Engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Duggan, a longtime Church of Scientology member, says he has given much more to church causes than the previously reported $360 million, and continues to do so. [ERIC ISAACS]
Published Nov. 22, 2019
Updated Nov. 22, 2019

For the last several years, the man who has given more money to Church of Scientology causes than anyone else has been conspicuously missing from Scientology circles.

Every year, unfailingly, Bob and Trish Duggan could be seen accepting awards at donor events and smiling in church magazines documenting the affairs.

That changed in 2017, when court records show the Duggans divorced. At that year’s annual banquet honoring top Scientology donors, only Trish Duggan appeared to accept her trophy from Scientology leader David Miscavige.

RELATED: ClearTakeover: How Scientology doubled its downtown Clearwater footprint in 3 years

Scientology watchers suspected Bob Duggan, a venture capitalist, might have left the organization after four decades of dedication and millions of dollars given.

Turns out, Duggan says he is just avoiding the spotlight.

In a phone interview with the Tampa Bay Times this week, he said he remains a devoted Scientologist despite avoiding church events since his divorce.

He declined to give an updated estimate of how much he has donated to Scientology to date, but said the number far exceeds the $360 million figure he cited to Forbes magazine in 2016.

“I’m not looking for bragging rights,” Bob Duggan said, speaking while on a trip in Costa Rica. “I read something from (Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard) every day and I apply it all throughout my life. I’m not running around with a badge saying, ‘Step aside, I’m a Scientologist.’”

He added: "I’m probably one of the wealthier people that have created more wealth on the planet than few others, and people don’t know my name. I’m not here for people to know my name.”

Duggan became a billionaire in 2013 when he was chief executive officer of Pharmacyclics Inc., and he led the team to develop a successful experimental cancer drug.

He sold the biotech firm to AbbVie in 2015, earning $3.5 billion in pretax cash and stock, Forbes reported. The magazine now puts Duggan’s net worth at $2 billion.

Previously in his career, he made hundreds of millions of dollars by investing in up-and-coming businesses and selling them when they took off — from a bakery chain to computer companies, according to a 2013 Bloomberg profile.

He met his future wife in the 1960s while they were both studying at UC Santa Barbara. The pair later got involved in Scientology in the 1970s.

Duggan told the Times he credits Scientology courses and Hubbard’s teachings for his vast success.

“Companies I started have generated value of over $100 billion,” he said. “I don’t remember doing that before (Scientology) … It’s there to help the able become more able. For me it worked.”

The Duggans’ contributions have helped fund various Scientology “humanitarian missions” and construction of buildings. They also helped finance the Freewinds, a cruise ship that is the only place that disseminates Scientology’s highest level of spiritual attainment.

He said he has contributed “deca millions” to L. Ron Hubbard Hall, a 3,600-seat auditorium proposed to be built on Court Street just south of Scientology’s seven-story Flag building in Clearwater. He declined to give an exact amount he has donated to the construction, which has not yet begun.

Duggan said he was not aware of his ex-wife’s recent offer to the City of Clearwater to fund the construction and operation of an art museum on the old City Hall property. He said he helped finance the creation of the Imagine Museum, an art glass collection Trish Duggan opened in downtown St. Petersburg in 2018.

Bob Duggan still owns an office building on Druid Road in Clearwater, where he runs his Genius Inc., a business that trains employers on “the 24 characteristics of geniuses.”

He said he lives “everywhere,” from Clearwater to Costa Rica to Europe.

When asked about the state of Scientology today, as the church continues to face allegations of exploitation and human rights abuses, Duggan praised Miscavige’s leadership for expanding Scientology.

RELATED: A Scientology battle like no other: Miscavige versus Miscavige

“Look at the facilities, you look at buildings, you look at all the good will projects,” Duggan said. “I just look at the balance of the good things they’ve done.”

“He stands up for himself," Duggan said of Miscavige. “Is he feisty? Ok you look at that. But we have to weigh everything. I’m sure if we dug deep enough, we’d find things in each other’s lives, like yeah, this is a mistake."

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