Bikram Yoga has collapsed in the heat — from a slew of sex-harassment suits, that is.
Post-sex scandal, Bikram yoga gets a makeover
The Calif.-based yoga chain — famous for its “hot yoga” studios that crank the thermostat above 100 degrees before class — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week, blaming more than $16 million in sexual-misconduct judgements against its frisky founder.
Bikram Choudhury, a 73-year-old, charismatic entrepreneur who has minted millions on the book and lecture circuit, has been inundated with lurid allegations of sleazy behavior around women — including his own top executives.
Miki JaffaBodden, Bikram Yoga’s former head of legal, is owed $8 million, according to court papers. Petra Starke, a former Obama White House lawyer who became the chief executive of the Bikram Yoga College of India in 2013, is owed $5.1 million.
In Bodden’s 2013 lawsuit, she alleged Choudhury created a “hyper-sexualized, offensive and degrading environment for women” and pressured her to cover up his conduct.
Starke, meanwhile, was hired by Choudhury to navigate “the avalanche of sexual harassment and sexual assault lawsuits tiled against him,” according to her lawsuit.
Starke left after he stopped paying her when she uncovered “even more acts of apparent sexual misconduct by Choudhury during a business trip.”
According to the suit, Choudhury forced a 23-year-old instructor to perform oral sex on him during a limousine ride to Atlantic City.
Choudhury has repeatedly denied the accusations. In a 2016 interview in India with HBO’s Real Sports, Choudhury called his accusers “trash,” and said that he would never need to resort to sexual assault because he has “the most beautiful, famous, rich women in the world” lined up to sleep with him every day.
Bikram yoga founder accused of sexual assault: 'Women loves me'
He added that there were four separate instances of women taking their own lives because he would not have sex with them.
“Why would I have to harass women?” Choudhury said. “People spend $1 million for one drop of my sperm.”
According to the filing, Bikram Yoga’s liabilities are worth up to $50 million, and it has assets of up to $1 million.
In May, a Los Angeles judge signed off on an arrest warrant for Choudhury, who fled the country in 2016 after Bodden’s claim was revealed.
Bodden’s lawyer told The Wall Street Journal that Choudhury is currently in Mexico. However, former lawyer of Choudhury’s told the paper that the guru is out of the country, but is unsure of where he is.