Keith Raniere’s devoted followers say he is one of the smartest and most ethical people alive. They describe him as a soft-spoken, humble genius who can diagnose societal ills with remarkable clarity. They say his teachings as an inspirational executive coach can empower some of the most successful people in the world to attain ever higher levels of status and money. Why, his program can even cure ailments like diabetes and scoliosis.
Some 3,700 people have flocked to Raniere, 43, and Executive Success Programs, the business he created in 1998. Prompted by a potent word-of-mouth network, they include Sheila Johnson, cofounder of Black Entertainment Television; Antonia C. Novello, a former U.S. surgeon general; Stephen Cooper, acting chief executive of Enron; the Seagram fortune’s Edgar Bronfman Sr. and two of his daughters; and Ana Cristina Fox, daughter of the Mexican president. Raniere’s disciples say his methods sharpen their focus and give them keener insight into the motivations of others. “It’s like a practical M.B.A.,” says one follower, Emiliano Salinas, son of a former president of Mexico.