The Wild Story Of The Heiress Who Gave Her Fortune To NXIVM

Photo: Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Clare Bronfman has been a tireless champion and financial benefactor to the headline-making alleged cult NXIVM for decades. That is a choice that has lead her from her perch as a multimillion-dollar heiress and award-winning equestrian to squandering her fortune and being charged with conspiracy and criminal racketeering.
Clare and her sister Sara, who are the daughters of billionaire businessman Edgar M. Bronfman, first joined NXIVM in the early 2000s when it was still known as a small group in Albany, NY that offered self-help workshops, according to The New York Times. For more than a decade, the sisters lavished their inheritance upon NXIVM leader Keith Raniere in an effort to build his reputation. Nothing was too much for Raniere. Private jets, meetings with the Dalai Lama, and even a private island in Fiji for retreats were all things the Bronfman sisters funded without hesitation. While Sara Bronfman became less involved in subsequent years after starting a family, Clare remained hopelessly devoted to Raniere.
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Bronfman’s unwavering dedication to Raniere and everything he stood for soon estranged her from her family. Even as his health was failing, Bronfman – camera crew in tow – pressed her father to admit that he had wrongly criticized Raniere by describing NXIVM as a cult to Forbes.
Last fall, a story by The New York Times revealed NXIVM for what it really is: an exploitative cult that uses sex and blackmail to control its followers. It was followed by an even darker discovery, a secret sorority of women within the group was branded with Raniere’s initials. Still, Bronfman’s loyalty was unshaken by the news. “I’ve seen so much good come from both our programs and from Keith himself,” Bronfman wrote on her personal website in December 2017. “It would be a tragedy to lose the innovative and transformational ideas and tools that continue to improve the lives of so many.”
During her nearly 20 years in NXIVM, Bronfman went from intrigued follower to the powerful financier who aggressively fought multiple lawsuits against the group. That was, until July 24, when she, along with Raniere, Smallville actress Allison Mack, and several others were arrested for an array of crimes including identity theft, extortion, forced labor, sex trafficking, money laundering, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice.
Now, the heiress who has spent countless millions on NXIVM is awaiting trial after pleading not guilty and being released on a $100 million bond.
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