Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited a controversial marketing company owner’s luxury ranch multiple times this year – and even brought Meghan’s mother along, DailyMail.com can exclusively reveal.
The firm, Guthy-Renker, has been fined over illegal business practices in California, was sued for $26million by thousands of women who claim its shampoo made their hair fall out, had commercials banned in the UK for ‘misleading’ consumers, and launched the career of self-help guru Tony Robbins was accused last month of spreading Covid misinformation.
Last week DailyMail.com revealed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex flew on a private jet owned by the firm, Guthy-Renker, after their VIP tour of New York City.
The news sparked speculation that Meghan could be planning to launch her own cosmetics line, following in the footsteps of the world’s richest supermodel Cindy Crawford who has made hundreds of millions of dollars from her Guthy-Renker hair products.
Harry and Meghan were seen driving in and out of Guthy-Renker co-founder Bill Guthy’s ranch in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara several times between February and March this year
Photos obtained by DailyMail.com show the Sussexes leaving the property in a black Range Rover with Meghan in the passenger seat and her mother Doria Ragland in the back
The photos suggest the Sussexes may have been friendly with Bill Guthy for months, and may have even used his Santa Barbara estate (pictured) for their bombshell Oprah Winfrey interview
Though the Sussexes and the company stayed silent about any budding business relationship, new photographs obtained by DailyMail.com reveal Harry and Meghan have been friendly with the firm’s co-founder Bill Guthy for months, and may have even used his Santa Barbara estate for their bombshell Oprah Winfrey interview.
The former royals were spotted driving in and out of the Guthy ranch in Carpinteria several times between February and March this year.
A series of pictures from March 1 shows Harry leaving the estate in a black Range Rover with Meghan in the passenger seat and her mother Doria Ragland in the back.
Their interview with Oprah was also reportedly filmed just days earlier, before the Sussexes were stripped of their royal titles on February 19.
Satellite images of the Guthy estate show an apparent stone courtyard similar to the leafy, outdoor location for the interview.
Their visits to the property around the time raise the prospect that the CBS TV special that rocked the royal family may have been filmed courtesy of the marketing company boss.
In fact, part of Guthy’s ranch was formerly available for rent as a luxury getaway under the name Paradise Retreats.
The couple’s highly-anticipated sit-down with Oprah was reportedly filmed on February 19 – just days before those photos were taken
Satellite images of the Guthy estate show an apparent stone courtyard similar to the leafy, outdoor location for the interview
DailyMail.com has also learned that part of Guthy’s ranch was formerly available for rent as a luxury getaway under the name Paradise Retreats
The three-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom home was billed as a ‘world class vacation rental’, complete with ‘panoramic views’ of Santa Barbara and Ventura, a media room, pool, and yurt
Billed as ‘world class vacation rentals’, the listing for a three-bed, 4.5-bath property on the estate boasts a private drive, avocado orchards, ‘panoramic views’ of Santa Barbara and Ventura, a media room, pool, and yurt.
Archive versions of the rental property online listing show it was live as recently as September 2020, but have since been removed from the Paradise Retreats site.
Neither the Sussexes nor Guthy-Renker responded to DailyMail.com’s requests for comment about any personal or business relationship between the former royals and the direct marketing firm.
Bill Guthy, 66, is reportedly worth more than $500million, and owns estates in Carpinteria, Beverly Hills and a home in the tony neighborhood of Brentwood, Los Angeles according to property records.
Their Beverly Hills property, built for former owners Emily Blunt and John Krasinski and later sold to Kendall Jenner, was listed in June for $8.5million.
Like the Sussexes, Guthy and his wife Victoria have two children, though theirs are grown.
Co-founders of Guthy-Renker Greg Renker (left) and Bill Guthy (right) are pictured with Cindy Crawford in West Hollywood, California in December 2015
The Sussexes and the company have remained silent about any potential budding business relationship
The couple was seen leaving the property ahead of their highly anticipated tell all with Oprah that aired on March 7
His son, Jackson Guthy, is a musician who dated Lori Loughlin’s YouTuber daughter Olivia Giannulli, one of the high profile participants in the college admissions scandal of 2019.
Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, Kelly Clarkson and Heidi Klum have all had beauty product lines by Guthy-Renker earning them millions of dollars.
The infomercial specialists made the career of self-help guru Tony Robbins and launched cosmetics with talk show host Leeza Gibbons, Dallas actress Victoria Principle and celebrity stylist Chaz Dean.
But in recent years Guthy-Renker has been fined over illegal business practices in California.
It was placed under federal investigation and sued for $26million by thousands of customers who claimed its shampoo led to hair loss, and had commercials for its acne treatment line, Proactiv, banned in the UK over its ‘misleading’ ads.
DailyMail.com published exclusive photos of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex disembarking from Guthy-Renker’s Dassault Falcon jet in their hometown of Santa Barbara in September after a three-day VIP tour of New York City – sparking speculation that Meghan could be planning her own product lines with the controversial company.
Crawford began a series of anti-aging skincare products with Guthy-Renker called Meaningful Beauty in 2005 and marketed them with a slew of on-the-nose infomercials.
Many of the firm’s products have celebrity endorsements, including a ‘Meaningful Beauty’ anti-aging skin cream fronted by Cindy Crawford (pictured)
Crawford became the face of Meaningful Beauty in 2005 and marketed the skincare products with a slew of on-the-nose infomercials
Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, Kelly Clarkson and Heidi Klum have earned millions of dollars with beauty product lines marketed by Guthy-Renker
In one commercial masquerading as a talk show segment, Crawford is interviewed in front of a studio audience by actress Valerie Bertinelli about her seeming ability to ‘defy the aging process’, with a honey-toned voiceover asking: ‘Is it magic, or could Cindy have a real secret to lasting youth?’
Viewers are told that ‘at a secluded natural field, scientists have cultivated a rare melon’, claiming that the fruit contains a ‘powerful super antioxidant’ used in Cindy’s creams, designed by anti-aging skincare expert Dr. Jean-Louis Sebagh.
Guthy-Renker’s Wen hair products sparked an FDA investigation in 2014 into claims of hair loss and skin irritation
Another half-hour infomercial includes a time lapse shot of a regular melon rotting and collapsing in a putrid pile, while ‘Dr. Sebagh’s Melon’ containing the ‘youth molecule’ stays ‘fresh and firm’.
By 2015 Guthy-Renker had aired at least 11 of Crawford’s infomercials on national TV including shopping channel QVC. The line added hair products this year.
A move by Meghan into the world of beauty products and infomercials would be highly unorthodox for a royal family member.
In an interview in Forbes in August this year, Guthy-Renker co-founder Greg Renker even admitted that Crawford ‘took a risk’ when she partnered with them in the early 2000s and that venturing into direct-to-consumer marketing at the time ‘was not exactly aspirational’.
But the business proved to be extremely lucrative – as Forbes estimates Crawford is now worth $225million largely thanks to her Guthy-Renker creams.
According to Euromonitor, the global skincare market earned $140billion in retail sales in 2019 and is expected to reach $181billion by 2025.
Wen’s line of hair products were endorsed by celebrity stylist Chaz Dean whose A-list clients have included Brooke Shields, Alyssa Milano (pictured) and Christina Applegate
Wen was forced to pay out $26.3million to settle a class action lawsuit of 2,000 women in 2016 after receiving 21,000 complaints from horrified customers discovering bald patches
However, Harry and Meghan’s public relations team at Sunshine Sachs may have a headache over their possible links to the infomercial giant given its checkered recent past.
Prosecutors from four California counties accused Guthy-Renker in 2019 of charging its customers for repeated shipments of products without their consent.
The firm was forced to pay $1.2million in penalties and ‘up to $7.3million in restitution to customers who got automatically-renewed charges without their consent’ according to the City of Santa Monica.
Guthy-Renker also paid nearly $8million to settle a lawsuit by customers of their Proactiv acne medicine and Wen hair products who were re-charged without their consent.
Wen previously paid out $26.3million to settle a class action lawsuit of 2,000 women in 2016 after receiving 21,000 complaints about its hair products.
Horrified customers discovered bald patches and skin irritation after using their conditioner, endorsed by celebrity stylist Chaz Dean whose A-list clients have included Brooke Shields, Alyssa Milano, and Christina Applegate.
The complaints had also sparked a Food and Drug Administration investigation two years earlier.
Guthy-Renker is known for its multi-billion dollar sales of celebrity-endorsed beauty products, including acne treatment Proactiv, whose infomercials famously featured Hollywood stars such as Katy Perry (pictured) and Justin Bieber
The FDA issued a safety alert for the brand while it carried out its investigation, and recommended that consumers ‘stop using the product and consult with their dermatologist or other health care provider’ if they experience a reaction after use.
At the time of the class action settlement, Wen said: ‘We continue to provide our hundreds of thousands of customers with the Wen by Chaz Dean products that they know and love. Since the process of litigation is time consuming and costly, we made a business decision to pursue a settlement and put this behind us so that we can focus on delivering quality products.’
The following year Wen also released research from a 2016 clinical study which found no ‘toxicological hazard’ or ‘adverse reaction’ in a lab test on over 100 subjects.
One of Guthy-Renker’s commercials was banned in the United Kingdom after using celebrities including Katy Perry and Justin Bieber to make misleading claims about their acne products.
The UK Advertising Standards Agency investigated complaints that the British version of the acne cream did not have the same active ingredients as its US counterpart, and ruled that the commercials were misleading viewers by suggesting the celebrities on camera were continuing to use the products, when in fact they only used them for a few weeks.
Guthy-Renker said at the time that it had ‘detailed documentary evidence’ showing the celebrities involved used the product and that they provided accurate descriptions of its effects.
The luxury 10-seat Dassault Falcon 2000LX plane is owned by Guthy-Renker company GRP Aviation LLC, according to records, but is also rented out to charter service Clay Lacy
An LA to NYC roundtrip charter flight costs around $115,000, according to Clay Lacy. The company however, told DailyMail.com there was not record of the jet being chartered this weekend, likely meaning Guthy-Renker provided the flight for Meghan and Harry
Many of the firm’s products have celebrity endorsements, including the Meaningful Beauty anti-aging skin creams fronted by Crawford, Sheer Cover mineral makeup promoted by talk show host Leeza Gibbons and the ‘In an Instant’ makeup line endorsed by model Heidi Klum.
Guthy-Renker helped launch the career of self-help guru Tony Robbins, who was accused last week of spreading Covid 19 misinformation.
Robbins spoke at a three-day sales conference in Orlando, Florida last week.
According to a TMZ report published Monday, in his speech the self-help author played down Covid death statistics, saying 1,200 people die every day from car accidents.
The real number is closer to 100 according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2019 data, while on average 2,000 people have died every day from covid in the past two weeks in the US.
Robbins also criticized covid lockdown night time curfews imposed in Australia, joking that ‘we all know the virus sneaks out at night.’
‘We’re all supposed to be afraid because the unvaccinated people, they’re destroying vaccinated people. That’s confusing to me. If the vaccine works, you’re protected aren’t you?’ he said, to applause in the Florida audience.
‘How could unvaccinated people be a threat to you? Besides that, 100 million Americans are unvaccinated. They’re not all crazy people. You know the number one group that is vaccine hesitant in a study? PhDs.’