Over the course of three years, L.A. Weekly journalist, Sue Horton, worked tirelessly on her non-fiction book, “The Billionaire Boys Club.” Horton was rewarded for her hard work and effort, when her book was published by St. Martin’s Press on November 1, 1989. Unlike the linchpin of her story, charismatic, intelligent, but also narcissistic and deadly, Joe Hunt, Horton knew there were no shortcuts to success. Conversely, Hunt wanted an express elevator to the good life, and he had no qualms about what he had to do in order to get there. Ultimately, the way he lived his life, by a set of guidelines he dubbed ‘The Paradox Philosophy,’ in which he believed there were no moral absolutes, and that the ends always justified the means, would lead to his eventual downfall, but not before he left a path of murder and mayhem in his wake. Horton’s book, is a very well-researched and written accounting of the trajectory of Joe Hunt’s life, that start’s with his family and formative years, up until his take-no-prisoners bravado and scheming ways led to his arrest and incarceration.
Joe Hunt was born Joseph Henry Gamsky, in Chicago, Illinois, on October 31, 1959. He was a highly intelligent child, and when tested, it turned out, he had a near genius IQ. Feeling that public school would be too limiting for her son, and wanting the best for him, his mother, Kathleen Gamsky, had Joe apply to the Harvard School, a prestigious, Los Angeles, prep school. Joe was immediately accepted and given a full scholarship. While attending the Harvard School, Joe showed tremendous aptitude for debate, and earned high marks, which, upon graduation in 1977, earned him admittance to the University of Southern California. While at USC, after some unpleasant incidents happened to Hunt, he dropped out, and began to solely concentrate on making money. During his time at the Harvard School, he had been jealous of the lifestyles the majority of the other students were afforded thanks to their wealthy families, and he wanted his piece of the good life. In 1980, Joe tried his luck at making his fortune in Chicago, but after a few unsuccessful years, as well as utilizing unsound trading practices, which got him barred from trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange for a decade, he returned to Los Angeles, in 1983. A short while after he was back in California, he came up with the idea to start the BBC. The BBC was not originally named to stand for Billionaire Boys Club. Hunt came up with the name for the investment organization after putting together the initials of his favorite restaurant, the Bombay Bicycle Club.
The one thing going for Hunt upon his return to Los Angeles was the connections he had made in prep-school. He had some close friends, who came from money, but he also had access to other individuals he had met while at the Harvard School, who fell victim to his charms and power of persuasion. Before long, his best friend Dean Karny came on board as his second-in-command. They were soon joined by another close friend, Ben Dosti. Soon other friends and acquaintances were investing a tremendous amount of their families’ money in the BBC. Hunt was able to convince those around him that he was an investment guru.
Hunt lived by the old adage, “you have to spend money to make money,” and he and his associates at the BBC were good at spending money. They rented office space in Beverly Hills, wore Armani suits, drove the newest BMW’s and Mercedes, and ate at the finest restaurants; the only trouble was, Hunt’s investment skills, were proving to be just as porous in California as they had been in Chicago. Hunt was spending more money than the BBC made. In order to cover the costs of the lavish lifestyles of the members of the board of the BBC, as well as pay back several investors who wanted the money he had supposedly earned for them through his commodities investments, Hunt had to take on new clients, to cover debts. After a short period of time, the BBC was operating nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. Hunt needed a way out of his predicament in order to avoid getting caught and exposed as the fraud he had become while in pursuit of the finer things in life. For a brief period of time, he thought he had found his financial savior in the person of Beverly Hills businessman Ron Levin. The only problem with Hunt’s mindset, was that Ron Levin was nothing more than a con man, whose schemes weren’t even that financially fruitful. For example, he had to have his parents pay the rent on his Beverly Hills home to keep up the appearance of his being successful.
Eventually, after some persistent badgering on Hunt’s part, to get Levin to invest with the BBC, Levin comes up with an arrangement, that Hunt is all too pleased to accept. Levin sets up a five million dollar line of credit at Clayton Investment, and states to Joe that he can keep fifty percent of whatever he makes. Joe, for the first time since he started the BBC goes on a winning streak, and manages to turn the initial five million dollar investment into fifteen million dollars, however, problems arise once Hunt begins to attempt to collect his share of the profits. Levin at first offers excuses as to why the money hasn’t been sent to the BBC, then outright refuses to take or return Hunt’s phone calls. In the end, Hunt learns that the entire account had been fictitious. Ron Levin, had persuaded the investment firm to make the account look real because, he claimed, he was making a documentary film. In actuality, no film was being made, and he took the fraudulent statement showing Hunt’s investing success to another firm and secured for himself a one million dollar line of credit.
Hunt had been counting on that money to keep the BBC alive. Ron Levin, had in one fell swoop, killed Hunt’s dream, so Hunt set out to do the same to Ron Levin. One evening, after weeks of meticulous planning, Hunt and the head of BBC Security, Jim Pittman, set out to pay Levin a visit at his home. The exact details of what happened to Ron Levin have still not been concretely proven. Levin’s body was never found. Furthermore, there are numerous people who have reportedly spotted Levin throughout the years, alive and well. Joe Hunt claims that he had nothing to do with Levin’s disappearance or death. Could con man Ron Levin, who was facing serious jail time for one of his schemes, have simply disappeared because he couldn’t do the time in prison? I am not sure I am willing to believe that based upon what I’ve read. There is the small possibility based on the eye witness sightings, as well as some other things that are brought up in the book, that it could be, however, unlikely, possible.
A short while after Levin, Hunt is approached by Reza Eslaminia, who wants to be granted membership in the BBC. He tells Hunt and Karny, that his father Hedayat is a wealthy Iranian political exile, with an estimated net-worth of 30 million dollars. Joe Hunt doesn’t need to hear anymore than that, he begins to formulate a plan to get the BBC the Eslaminia money, and use it to get out of debt.
For those of you who, after reading this book- or have already read it – and are interested in learning more about Joe Hunt and the members of the BBC, there is the non-fiction book “The Price of Experience” by Randall Sullivan. Golden Globe nominee, Judd Nelson (St. Elmo’s Fire), portrayed Joe Hunt and two-time, Emmy nominee, Ron Silver (The West Wing) played Ron Levin, in the 1987 Emmy nominated, television movie about the BBC. In addition to other specials on the BBC that have aired on television, there is the REELZ Channel, recent airing of the one hour episode “Murder Made Me Famous.” Furthermore, there was an excellent episode on the BBC on “Marcia Clarke Investigates The First 48,” which aired on A&E on May 10, 2018. Next month, on July 17th, “Billionaire Boys Club” directed by James Cox (Wonderland), and starring Golden Globe nominee Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver) as Joe Hunt, and two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) as Ron Levin, will premiere in theaters. In closing, there is a great deal more in Horton’s book that I haven’t mentioned. I found her work to be interesting and informative, and it should especially appeal to people who are interested in reading true crime nonfiction.