January 4, 2017
The woman who won her sexual harassment case against Bikram Choudhury last year is getting her due, big time.
This may be the most empire-crushing news to date—as if the multiple sexual harassment and rape allegations coupled with his infamous reputation of being an impossibly narcissistic asanahole weren’t enough to tear up the sweaty carpets of Bikram Choudhury’s multimillion dollar franchise. Though as we’ve learned, even from the most recently presidential of cases, people don’t really care about those things enough to make them deal breakers. There are still followers and supporters and those willing to spend hard-earned thousands on teacher trainings. Alas, it appears we are now witnessing the unraveling of an empire that not too long ago seemed unshakable. (Even though it’s hardly being reported on…yes, we find that weird, too. In fact, we weren’t sure we believed it until we saw the report on legal news service Law360.com. Update: the story has been picked up by the Associated Press.)
In brief, Bikram Yoga as we know it is doomed. You might include the man in that scenario, too.
Yet another twist, if you will, in the sexual harassment and assault saga involving Bikram Choudhury: mid-December, while we were all busy holiday shopping, a Los Angeles judge ruled that virtually the entire Bikram empire be handed over to Minakshi Jafa-Bodden to satisfy her multimillion dollar lawsuit she won against Choudhury in early 2016.
Jafa-Bodden, the former head of legal and international affairs for Bikram Yoga, filed a lawsuit in 2013 accusing Choudhury of sexual harassment and wrongful termination, also claiming to have witnessed Choudhury’s disgusting behavior with other women close to him, including teacher trainees, echoing several other lawsuits presently filed against him (there are six total, as of now).
Jafa-Bodden recently told The Daily Mail.
‘He can be very charming when you first meet him, but that didn’t last long.
‘There were allegations of rape and assault. Perhaps the first complaint was a surprise but then I began to see a pattern. He told me to ‘fix’ these women, but when I refused to cover up his alleged crimes, he became abusive, calling me a ‘f***ing bitch’.
‘He would sit on a throne at the front of this vast room filled with trainees. During lectures the throne would be lowered. There would be a girl stroking his hair, another massaging his back and another stroking him under orange towels that would be placed on his lap.
‘It was disgusting, but it was a daily occurrence. He is a cold, calculating predator. I witnessed him routinely abusing that power, often with the most vulnerable students.’
In January 2016, Jafa-Bodden won her case and almost $7 million in punitive and compensatory damages—a huge blow to the Bikram bubble and the first of the lawsuits to reach such an impactful outcome. (The punitive damages figure was later reduced to $4.6 million but with an additional $1.1 million in attorneys’ fees and costs tacked on, the current total reaches approximately $6.7 million.)
From the defendant’s perspective, those are some lemons. Hand Bikram Choudhury lemons?…and he makes a run for the border to set up his shady lemonade shop elsewhere. Just a few months after the ruling, Bikram reportedly fled the U.S. and returned to India where he proceeded to carry on with business as usual insisting on his innocence by denying there’s any issue at all and calling his accusers “trash” among other not so nice names.
We’ve seen this ignore it and it ill go away tactic again and again. This time it looks like there’s no escaping without consequences—how novel, right?
On December 13, 2016, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark A. Borenstein approved Jafa-Bodden’s request that Choudhury’s 700 franchised Bikram Yoga studio agreements around the world, his trademark royalty and licensing payments, copyrights, web domains and other intellectual property all be handed over to her. Jafa-Bodden was also awarded Choudhury’s ownership interest in Bikram Yoga College of India. Choudhury’s fleet of vintage Rolls Royces, Bentleys and Ferraris are included as part of the payment, though the 43 luxury cars now seem to be mysteriously missing. Plus, a million dollar diamond-encrusted watch—that all yoga teachers have—also missing.
The judge also approved a “receiver” who may have the authority to sell any or all of the intellectual property. Further details have yet to be determined.
One thing is for sure—Bikram will never be the same again.
“Bikram is no longer the boss of Bikram Yoga. I am,” Jafa-Bodden told The Daily Mail. “I’ve been to hell and back, but the jury has spoken. Bikram has tried to conceal assets and has fled America, but justice will be done.”
“In a million years I never imagined that would be the outcome. Now I want to sell what we can so I can get my money and move on with my life,” she said.
Bikram Choudhury’s camp has yet to make a statement. But a drop of his sperm is worth a million dollars, right? So he’ll be fine.