x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Disparity between Jordan Belfort’s Dubai speech and TV feature on the real Wolf of Wall Street

Jordan Belfort, the real wolf of Wall Street who was recently in Dubai to give a motivational speech, was the subject of a CBS show that claims he still owes his victims millions of dollars.

Jordan Belfort, whose autobiography inspired the Oscar-nominated movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Lucas Jackson / Reuters
Jordan Belfort, whose autobiography inspired the Oscar-nominated movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Jordan Belfort – the inspiration behind the Hollywood blockbuster The Wolf of Wall Street – who spoke at the Arabian Business Conference in Dubai on May 19, featured in the May 20 broadcast of the Inside Edition show on the American network CBS.

Despite Belfort’s claim in Dubai that he was in the process of paying back the victims of his brokerage scam and his admission that he “doesn’t know the figures” involved, the CBS show claims he still owes almost US$100 million (Dh367m) to his victims – all while living in luxury in a beachfront house, driving a $140,000 Mercedes, flying in private jets to gigs in his current role as a motivational speaker and taking private tennis lessons several times a week from the former top American pro Jeff Tarango.

It’s not the first time Belfort’s self-professed magnanimity towards his victims has been questioned.

The Wall Street Journal has noted that he received almost $1m for movie rights in 2011, while paying only $21,000 in restitution to his victims and claiming a $24,000 income-tax deduction in the process.

Meanwhile, Red Granite Pictures, the company that co-produced and handled distribution for The Wolf of Wall Street, was slapped with a $125,000 court injunction in 2011 in lieu of Belfort’s own payments.

During his session in Dubai, the “now reformed” Belfort said that the money from his motivational-speaking engagements goes into an escrow account controlled by his lawyer and that the money will be used to pay back investors who were hit by his questionable approach to ethics in the past.

“Greed isn’t good,” said Belfort, who has been sober for 18 years. “Ambition is good. Greed is about making as much as you can as quick as you can. You have to maintain your ethics and your integrity, always, because as soon as you step a little bit over the line where your ethics are drawn, that line moves and next time you step over it, you’re even farther from where it started and it goes on.”

Belfort left Dubai immediately after his speaking engagement, so we’ll have to take his word for it.

But one of the victims featured in the CBS show, Brad Johnson, said he hasn’t seen the proceeds of Belfort’s alleged $30,000-a-night speaking tour.

When confronted on the show about the $65,000 Johnson had lost, Belfort said: “I sold the firm in 1994, so I’m not responsible. So, I’m sorry that you lost money, but it wasn’t because of me.”

cnewbould@thenational.ae