Real 'Wolf of Wall Street' hunts for redemption
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, May 14, 2014 11:41AM EDT
How many speaking engagement fees does it take to pay back $110 million?
That’s the question former scammer Jordan Belfort, the real “Wolf of Wall Street,” is trying to answer.
The man behind the book that inspired Martin Scorsese’s drug, cash and sex-fuelled 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street” is on a redemption tour. He’s picking up right where his on-screen character, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, left off in the movie, working as a motivational speaker after serving time in prison and being stripped of his brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont.
Belfort says he’s trying to earn back the $110 million he bilked from his investment clients so he can repay them. And he’s earning that money by teaching others how to be successful – while keeping ethics in mind.
“I’ve been at the top, I’ve been back on the bottom again and back on top,” he told CTV’s Canada AM in an interview that aired on Wednesday. He says people are excited by the way he’s able to continually come back from losing everything.
“People love that idea.”
But Belfort won’t go so far as to say he’s a changed man. He says he’s simply back to being the Jordan he used to be. “I’m the person that my parents sent out into the world,” he says.
“When I went out to Wall Street, that was really when this journey started off of the road of ethics and integrity.”
Belfort says he’s back on that road and pushing ethics along with entrepreneurship as he tours around the world for his speaking engagements. He’s slated to speak in Toronto on Thursday and has more Canadian dates ahead. After that, he’ll kick off a tour of the United States that he expects will earn him $50 million – all of which he intends to pay back to his fraud victims.
He says he’s being more responsible with his business advice so others don’t do what he did.
“It’s easy to show people how to make money and how to get ahead in life, but you have to make sure that message is tempered with the idea that you’ve got to give value and you’ve got to create value, and make sure it’s not just about making as much as you can as fast as you can.”
Belfort says a lack of ethics is what brought down his multi-million-dollar lifestyle.
“You have to have integrity because without that, it doesn’t end up well, which I’m the poster child for,” he says. “You get so deep into something that you become desensitized to it. The abnormal seems normal, the unethical almost seems OK.”
“The Wolf of Wall Street” book and its movie adaptation recount Belfort’s life of unethical excess. He scammed clients out of millions and lived a wild, drug-fuelled lifestyle that saw him sink his private yacht, repeatedly crash his sports cars and divorce his wife to marry a supermodel. United States investigators eventually caught up with Belfort and forced him to surrender his brokerage firm. He also served 22 months in jail and is required to pay back what he bilked as part of his sentence.
Belfort got the idea to write “The Wolf of Wall Street” from his prison cellmate, Tommy Chong of the comedy duo Cheech and Chong. Chong was writing a book at the time and encouraged Belfort to do the same.
“Tommy was a huge inspiration and without him, I probably would’ve never written the book,” Belfort says.
Belfort says the movie adaptation of his book has brought him a broader audience for his motivational speaking, and allows him to make more money to pay back to his victims.
“I can’t control the feelings of people that I wronged back in the day,” he says.
“What I can do is actively go out and pay them back, which is what I’m doing.”