JB Were’s long-time leader Bruce Teele has been explicitly named in the
mainstream press as the leader of the now banned cult that took over
the old Murdoch family church in the leafy Melbourne suburb of
Camberwell. The Age’s religious correspondent Barny Zwartz produced a fascinating feature on Saturday which included the following:

The reputed leader for the past decade has been a pillar of the financial
establishment, Bruce Teele, 68, the former head of leading stockbroker JB Were
and now chief of Australian Foundation Investment Co.

According to business people, Teele is a “heavyweight”, a man of real
influence, and known to be a devout Christian. Under his leadership, Were was “a
puritan shop, a moral place with far fewer cowboys and risk-takers”. Teele and
other Fellowship leaders did not return calls from The Age — Teele has
never spoken publicly about the group.

According to victims of the cult, Teele is a “control freak”. Sue Barker, who
married into the cult, says she did not meet her fiance’s parents when the time
came but Teele. “When I buy a washing machine I get an instruction manual. When
we had children, it was Bruce who got the manual. If it’s between what God says
to Bruce and to you, Bruce’s version wins.”

Another former member says the leaders always spoke about unity. “What that
meant was that Bruce had spoken.” They were manipulative, sometimes broke
confidences and exerted enormous, if subtle, pressure. They would suggest who
members could marry and where they should work. The worst damage came from
“shunning”. Some family members who did not belong to the Fellowship were
entirely cut off. They were not invited to family events, Christmas presents
were returned unopened, grandparents never saw grandchildren.

Sue Barker was presumably married to Ross Barker, the JB Were partner
who has been managing director of AFIC, the main JB Were investment offshoot, since 1987 and also attends the
Trinity Presbyterian Church in Riversdale Rd, Camberwell.

Some strange questions have been asked at AGMs in the past but having
just bought 110 AFIC shares this morning it will be a real challenge
working out how to word the cult questions at this year’s AGM. However,
don’t be surprised if all this publicity leads Goldman Sachs to start
changing the AFIC personnel a little.

The establishment AFIC board is one of the most entrenched going
around, but surely they will have to take some action against their
chairman who has been a director since 1966. The likes of Don Argus,
Cathy Walter and Stan Wallis all have much experience with public
controversy but never before has such a powerful business leader been
accused of leading a religious cult like this. Stand by for a
retirement once Bruce Teele notches up 40 years of service – but before
the AFIC AGM in October.

Meanwhile, don’t hold your breath for the Murdoch press to ever buy
into the story given that Bruce Teele has long been tight with Rupert
Murdoch and the subsequently merged Goldman Sachs–JB Were remains one of News Corp’s house
brokers to this day. The silence has been deafening for almost two
weeks now.

Peter Fray

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