HomeTom Brown JrControversies

"Tom Brown Jr. is a Millionaire?"

The following conversations took place on the Tracker mailing list during September 1997.

A couple of you have stated that Tom isn't in it for the money and that the school needs a budget. Now personally I am a fan of Toms books and due to my wife and daughters needs I am still unable to attend classes, mostly due to the price. However, have any of you taken a second to stop and figure out the number of students per class X 700 X the number of classes per year.

The man is a millionaire! Plain and simple.

He may be a wise man and a great man and a true caretaker but you must in all honesty acknowledge the fact that Tom Brown is a Capitalistic Entrepreneur. He makes a whole lot more than it takes to run his school. Therefore his primary intention cannot be simply to educate the masses. If he wanted this he would charge just enough to run the school which would be around 50-100 dollars per person. It is evident by the large profit margin that there are monetary motives involved. Now this may not be all bad depending on what he is doing with this money. Now before the tomatoes fly someone please write back and let me know What types of vehicles he drives, what type of home he lives in. And at the same time what type of charities he gives to. I am not out to get Tom I just am tired of everyone sweeping the money issue under the rug. He has taught us to live with less but why is he requiring so much. Hope I didn't offend or upset anyone.


Well, he runs 26 classes a year (every other week). Standard and a couple of other classes are $650; all others are $700. This year he's running about 8 650 classes, next will have 11 according to his published schedule, so let's just use 8. Class size varies widely according to particular class and time of year. I've heard some have been like 125 students and some only 25, but let's assume around 70. That makes 8*70*650 + 18*70*700 = $1,246,000 or about $1.25 million/year in tuition.

I've never run a school (or even a business) of my own. Have you? You say he "makes a whole lot more" than needed, and has a "large profit margin". Upon what do you base these assertions??? Do you just happen to know how much he makes, or what his profit margin is? Is that published somewhere that I can get the info, too? I'm flabbergasted that you claim anyone can run a school for a paltry $100/person/week... Food alone would cost you more than that. And I am certain that he's paying a HUGE amount for insurance... He has stated a couple of times that only Lloyds will insure him because of the "survival" nature of his course, and that half of the tuition goes for the insurance. Given what it costs to insure a teenager for driving a car, that seems cheap.... Now, aside from himself, he has at least three instructors and at least two or three office staff, all of whom need to be paid a living wage. He is renting the farm/school and, since he doesn't own the Pine Barrens camp, I presume he rents that as well. The school pays for a ton of tools (axes, saws, files, rakes, etc.) that are severely abused by students and require frequent replacement. What about all the phone bills, printing and mailing, office supplies, health benefits for employees, retirement plan contributions, accountants and lawyer and tax preparer fees, and I really don't have a clue as to what all it takes to run a business? How in the world can you claim anyone can run a business charging people only 50-100 a week??? A plumber will charge you that much or more for one 30 minute house call...

Now, suppose you want to buy property for your school so you don't throw all that rent money away... Do you charge a bit more up front and save for it or go into debt and pay 8-10% interest charges? I think you're spouting off numbers and don't have a clue...

I know he has a civilianized HumVee, which seems like an expensive affection. An instructor claimed TBJr was beating up 4WDs at a rate of about one per year, so the Hummer may make good fiscal sense, if true. (On the other hand, many companies give their top executives luxury cars in lieu of money when more money is of little incentive.) He lives in an old rented farm house. I have no idea what charities he gives to. What charities do YOU give to, or would you rather not make that public knowledge? Most people don't like to discuss such issues, since it really is no one else's business and tends to make them bigger targets for every worthy (or not) cause that is looking for handouts.

You may be tired of "everyone" sweeping the money issue under the rug, but it is fairly obvious that you've never seriously considered it yourself. I'm not out to get you or throw tomatoes, but _I'm_ really tired of "everyone" thinking they have some right to know all the intimate details of anyone else's life. And then making wild-assed assertions about financial matters that have no validity whatsoever merely indicates that the person is just being a prick and whining about something they don't even begin to understand. I think it is important and good to question, but it is a sign of a small person to simply complain about things you don't understand and have made no effort to figure out.

But hey, that's just my nickle's worth, and I hope it doesn't offend _you_ either. Maybe next time this topic comes up, I'll have raised my consciousness to a level that I won't spout off and waste even more bandwidth on it... One can hope...

Good Journeys,

--glen monaghan

Usually I delete 90% of my Tracker E-mail, but I did read with great interest about the MONEY ISSUE.

I think that Travis has courage for writing such a letter. He brings up some very important issues that need to be addressed. On top of that I feel for Travis because so many of you trashed him. ...

Tom Brown is a millionaire, a liar, and a con-man. I enjoy his books, especially the earlier ones, but I would not go to his school because I don't believe we should support him anymore. Maybe at one time Tom really did care about nature and about really loving his students, but that time has long since past.

Millionaires don't bother me (I want to make millions! LOL!), but hypocrites do. Tom Brown is the biggest hypocrite there is. I knew it when I took the Standard class when I was only 19 years old, but back then I didn't want to believe it. Now that I'm an "adult" I know better.

Stalking Wolf said, "The further man's feet are removed from the Earth, the less respect he will have for living growing things". This is more like my philosophy, not Tom's. In The Tracker, The Search, and The Vision Tom laid out the ground rules about how we should live our lives. He said that we should love. He said that we should be humble. In the story about Grandpa Dandelion he said that we should seek out our elders, so that we can learn their wisdom. He said that we should not separate ourselves from the Earth Mother. In those early books he stressed morals, values, and ethics.

What the hell happened? Everything flew out the door. I feel hurt and greatly saddened by Tom's lack of ethics. But the strangest part of all is that so many of you adamantly defend him despite the fact of his ACTIONS! Words are nice, but actions are everything. If you say something good and wise, but then do the opposite, that makes you a hypocrite. Tom Brown talks the talk, but he doesn't walk the walk. That hurts me deeply.

Remember Carlos Castaneda? He wrote several "spiritual" books just like Tom Brown. Many people were upset with Carlos and disputed what he said in his books. Two books were written in response to Castaneda's ideas. I hope that someone out there writes a book in response to Tom Brown's books. Your hero seems to have quite a history.

This is what I have to say in response to Glen's letter:
1)Tom Brown does not have a large staff. In fact, he relies mostly on volunteer instructors. (I know this for a fact because 2 of my friends have volunteered at the Tracker School on a number of occasions)
2) I seriously doubt half of the $700 tuition goes toward insurance. This is just another exaggeration; he's full of them. Even if that were true, there are ways around that. He could switch insurance companies!! He could change the name of the business and omit the "Survival" aspect. He could close the business down, reopen it with a new name. I own my own business, so I know this is not out of line. There are many ways of reducing costs, including insurance!
3) Glen, food is a very minimal cost. Besides, everyone should be eating weeds and earth worms anyway. It doesn't cost $100 per week to feed an adult; especially if you're eating stew.
4) RACCOON said "Not only are Tom's prices not unreasonable, they are a bargain." RACCOON is in denial. Use common sense for god sakes Coon Man. Do you think we are stupid? Tom Brown is REAMING everyone. Low income, disabled (SSI) haven't got a prayer of getting in! Why are the poor denied their "spiritual rights?" My girlfriend is in a wheelchair for life. Do you think that greedy bas....would let her go for a discount? Yeah right.
5) Don't forget, Glen, Tom makes thousands of big bucks from his books. (I think the ghost writer deserves the money)
My best friend, Gary, was a volunteer instructor at the Tracker School on several occasions. He was even at the CA Standard last year. Gary told me that when Tom is away from the students, he often lets down his guard and says some terrible things; things that a spiritual person should not say. In the one class he remembered there was a female student from, I think, New Zealand. Gary described her as very warm, friendly and interested in learning.
Gary told me that Tom had just finished a lesson and went "back stage" . Gary was sitting there chatting with some other volunteer instructors when Tom walked in and said, "Did you see that chick with the dreadlocks, what a dog". The other volunteer instructors thought that was funny so they laughed. But Gary was shocked, to say the least. He couldn't believe that Tom could talk so badly about a student who had traveled half way around the world to attend that class.
Gary also told me about how Tom kicked someone out of his class. Apparently someone asked Tom a question about his authenticity. Tom didn't like it, so he gave him the boot.
The sad thing about that incident is that the very person he kicked out still doesn't see the light. He still thinks Tom is terrific and that he was wrong for questioning "god" Tom. (What a coward. He can't see the truth even when truth hits him in the face.)
Tom Brown is a coward, he ran away from the Vietnam War when his peers needed him the most. Tom Brown should learn a lesson about survival from our veterans. Tom Brown would not have been hurt because, don't forget, he knows how to turn invisible. Tom could have turned invisible and put sand down the barrels of the enemies' guns!
Joe DaBille (sp?) told me that Tom Brown thinks he's god. Joe thinks that Tom Brown should show up at Rabbitstick to show off his stuff. Do you think he would? Do you think that he could pull himself away from his million dollar school long enough to take a lesson? I doubt it because that would mean he'd have to humble himself.
Can you imagine Tom Brown trying to convince Jim Riggs that he can age a track to within 5 minutes of when it was made? Can you imagine Tom Brown flintknapping next to Errett Callahan? Can you imagine Tom Brown trying to convince Jack Cresson that he knows more about archaeology because he can travel back in time? I think he'd look pretty bad next to people who really know about wilderness survival & primitive technology.
For those of you who admire Tom Brown, I think that's great. But keep in mind his history of unethical behavior--as a "spiritual" role-model, he should be more honest and practice what he preaches.
P.S., If you live in Southern CA and want to get together to practice skills, let me know. I wont charge you $700, I promise. I don't want everyone to think I'm a hate monger, so let's get together some time. Maybe you can educate me from your point or view. Remember the lesson of the center skull?


And hummers, and beach houses etc. BTW, when I attended the school, the instructors were unpaid. Also, a personal friend, who is an excellent flint knapper, was invited to demonstrate the lithic arts at a week-end seminar, taught by Tom, and hosted by a local anthropological society. Tom was willing to allow my friend to teach for a minimal fee of $250.00. That is, Tom was going to charge my friend $250 to teach at Tom's seminar. Very generous of him, wasn't it.


Not exactly. Tom lives in Loveladies, NJ, an exclusive community on Long Beach Island, an environmentally threatened barrier island off the mainland. Homes there start at well over $1 million.

Don't plan on going to Loveladies and schmoozing with Tom on the beach though - there is no way to even get to the shore without trespassing on private property. The June New Jersey Monthly magazine had an interesting article about Loveladies and the controversy over private vs. public access rights for the beaches there.

According to a 1987 article about Tom in New Jersey Monthly magazine (titled "Walk Like an Apache") his personal income was about $300,000 a year - 10 years ago.

--Louis Judice

I couldn't help but get in on this topic.

Has anyone read the book "Illusions", by Richard Bach? If not, go find it at the book store ore library and read the parable about the clam in the very beginning. I wonder if, to some degree, this is the same thing that is happening to Tom. Let me first tell you that I don't know shit from shinola when it comes to Tom's personal affairs, but it seems to me that anyone doing what he is doing is bound to have followers who want to turn him into a "God". I have never had the "Fan" mentality, but I have been in the spotlight before. I used to fight professionally and had experienced the groupie thing first hand. I have also run into people who I've never met who swear that Jeff (me) taught them. They didn't realize that I was Jeff.

My point is, Tom can't help people being infatuated with him. Maybe people have put such high standards on him that he can't possibly live by them all. I do agree that the courses are a bit on the pricey side so I have chosen to learn by other means.

I wish people would stop the spiritual garbage and get back to the nitty gritty tracking and primitive living stuff. I hear that they go hand in hand but everyone seems to take it way overboard. A lot of you have different ideas and all of you think they are right. Guess what, you can't all be right.

Instead of just repeating the stuff you hear from people with authority (like Tom), put some thought into things. No more of the monkey see monkey do stuff. Remember, Tom is a Guy, first and foremost. He is one of the fellas, whether you choose to make him an icon or not. Just because he likes money, it doesn't make him a bad guy. Don't expect him to feed his wife and kids weeds all their lives.


I will not attempt to disagree with everything you said. But this point is arguable, because I personally have experience with it. I was fifteen years old when I attended the Standard Class at the Tracker School. I was able to go, despite an age requirement of 18 years old, because Tom invited me. This happened not because I was a friend of his, or because of any connections, but through a chance encounter with him on AOL. I signed up, and after having sent in the $200 down payment, I learned from the office that no payment was necessary. And so I attended the March '96 Standard class for the $200 which I let the school keep.

A friend of mine who volunteered to help out at that class has also experienced the same thing. He has not paid anything to attend the classes.

Being fair to Tom, it should be said that it is hard to run a business if everything is given away. I don't think the Tracker School would be too happy if every fifth person started asking for a free lunch. Despite what is said, Tom is probably not a millionaire. If he were, he wouldn't be teaching every week, he'd be spending time at his beach house.

Please remember that despite what other things Tom may do, he does give a lot away.

I will also agree with this, even though I didn't get a free ride, I did get let in while I was 16, and I am going to the B2B while 17. I am also not friends with tom, nor do I attempt to be, I am just a student, and because I expressed my sincere desire to learn what he teaches, he gave me a chance, at an early start. At my standard, I know of three people that were getting classes free, one was a Native American man, and the other two were a couple, a man, in his seventies, and a woman in her eighties, that were there on their honeymoon.

I have absolutely no objection to his prices, those classes are priceless, I would pay 7 times as much if I had to.

And as for Tom's character, from the private conversations I had with him, and from talking to many other people that know him on a more than professional level, he does live up to what he teaches. Which is not to run out and live your whole life in the wilderness, eating weeds, and wearing buckskins, it is to live your vision, no matter what. He works himself sick between writing and teaching, and as for his personality during a standard course, how many of you could stand to teach a preschool class year after year?

I don't really care about tom's financial situation, if he is a billionaire, he deserves it, if he is broke, then I hope the best for him.

Every single thing I have learned from him, his books, and his instructors, has worked, beyond my wildest expectations, and until what he teaches me, begins to fail on a regular basis, then I will still follow his lessons.

--Carl Payne

Last word from me on the subject. ..

Some have questioned Tom's "generosity". He owes nothing to anyone. He is known by me, for a fact (and I can produce the registration forms) to give classes away. I am well aquatinted with an individual (who was asked to say nothing, by Tom) about attending as a guest, future classes. This person took the STd. At the B2B, they were called aside and given a registration form signed by Tom for a free class. They used this for the P1. At the scout class (which they paid for) Tom called them aside and asked what class they were taking next. When they told Tom they were unsure, he told them " You know you don't have to pay for classes anymore. I appreciate the way you have learned your skills"

This does not speak of a self serving, uncaring man. No he does not pamper anyone. No he doesn't appear to lose sleep if you don't learn your skills, and yes he will take your money unless you piss him off. This incident instantly eliminated any doubts I may have had about his motivations. I have seen the forms. I trust the individual unquestionably. This person goes absolutely animal on getting the job done. He does the best work he can do on all projects, and would die before he quit. I also know of 2 other folks whom he has given at least 1 class to. So stop sniveling if you cant cut it. Prove yourself if you can. I aspire to reach that level, but wont whine if Tom does not elect to "pay my way". He refers to a friend of mine as "Little Shit" and me as "the Fat One". Do I care? I wear it as a badge of honor.

--eddie s

>>"The man is a millionaire! Plain and simple."
NOT! It's pretty obvious that you've never run your own business for any length of time, Travis! While most everybody can appreciate your financial situation with your kids, most people simply don't grasp the basics of business economics. Look, if you said you earn, say, $50,000 per year, your argument would make it very difficult to explain why you couldn't afford a measly $700 class. But, taxes eat up 35-40% right off the top, right? Your home costs, say, $800 / mo. Car payments? Food? Clothes? Medical bills? So, what percentage of your GROSS income is left over at the end of the year? This is called "NET PROFIT". It's also referred to as "discretionary" or "disposable" income. And, what about debts -- do you make monthly payments on anything? Can't afford a $700 class? I'd say your net profit is under 1%. HEY -- this would kill most businesses!

In fact, an average business needs a GROSS PRE-TAX PROFIT MARGIN well OVER 30% just to have enough capital _reserves_ to stick around for any length of time! You (i.e., a person) can go on welfare if you have a really bad year. A corporation just dissolves and the investors lose their money. Tracker Inc has been around for quite a while, and is therefore probably making a decent pre-tax profit. The officers and directors are probably stockholders, but there isn't any reason for them to be getting filthy rich -- it would drain too many resources from the company's operating funds, and that would eventually kill the business. (I'd be willing to bet that Tom makes more off his royalties from books and other sources than from his salary, and I doubt either one is really that significant.)

There's also this little "problem" called growth. In order to grow a company, you need to have 20%-30% NET PROFITS over an extended period of time. This doesn't look like "let's go buy a yacht", it's more like "time to repave the parking lot and expand the manufacturing plant". Don't have the capital on hand you need for expansion? Well, business loans cost 10%-15% of cash flow. That's 1/3-1/2 of your net profits -- if they're healthy. If you NEED a big loan, your net profits probably aren't even that good, so the interest expense might get damn close to your net profit. When that happens, it's time to find outside investors, or get ready to shut the place down!

One other thing that's very counter-intuitive for most people to grasp: the primary objective of any business is to show as LITTLE net profits at the end of the year as possible. Why? Because 30%-50% of it goes straight to the Feds as income taxes, whether it's paid by the corp or by employees! That's why retained earnings are generally plowed back into the company, not paid out to employees (when they are paid out, they're called dividends, and they go to the shareholders).

People don't start a business to get rich immediately -- Bill Gates wasn't worth much until Microsoft went public, and it was around 15 years old at that time! In a business, one gets rich by being a large stockholder and negotiating a good buy-out after years of steady cash-flow, good profit margins, and reasonable (or great) growth. If any of those are missing, the value of the company isn't nearly as good. When the primary assets of the business lie in one, single person (like Tracker, Inc), if that person isn't around, the business isn't worth a plugged nickle. Tom says he teaches 26 weeks a year. If he's sick or unavailable for some reason, who teaches the class for him? 20% of $1M is around $200,000, which is probably a very modest income for someone who does as much stuff as Tom does for a living. However, I doubt that his salary is anywhere near that amount, as that would be around the entire profit margin of the corporation. No, if Tom really wanted to get rich, he'd hire on with any of the gazillion paramilitary operations around the world and teach them how to be better gorilla fighters. A $1M/yr business based predominantly on one person's energy is incredibly rare these days, and it's even more rare that that person is putting much of that income into his own pocket.

One last note: the most common way a company reduces its pre-tax income is by purchasing stuff -- land, buildings, vehicles used in conjunction with  the business' operations, air fare and other travel expenses, inventory, better phone systems, etc. Anybody who'd take a big income from their own corporation and then use it to individually purchase these things is a total idiot and isn't bright enough to keep the business afloat for more than a year or so. Also, remember that Tom is divorced with kids; do you suppose his ex-wife just sits idly by and lets him sock away gobs of money??? I don't know of too many divorced business owners who aren't paying their ex-spouses a bigger chunk of change than they're keeping themselves, and I know several. Lawyers aren't that stupid.

No, someone with Tom's energy, knowledge, and experience doesn't do what he's doing with the school to get rich. However, he might well earn quite a handy amount from other things like search-and-rescue jobs: insurance
companies could save a bundle hiring him for big bucks rather than paying on a life insurance claim.

--David P. Schwartz

Dear List,

I run a wilderness skills summer camp for kids, based very much on my experiences as a student and assistant instructor at Tom's school (back in the late 80's). I have run my camp for 6 years now, and can honestly say that when I deal with running this business, I generally pay about 70% of my gross income to expenses. This includes staff, insurance, food, and so much more that you have to experience to believe. I am in the process of buying land and improving the land for my camp, our staff and community, and the pond we need will be over $5,000, the well will be about $2-4,000 and the land cost and lawyers fees will all come out of my pocket. If I charged less than what I do now for campers, (currently $450 per week), I would be out of a job, and have to go elsewhere to find work. I don't have to pay more than 4-6 thousand in insurance because I avoid the dreaded "survival" word in my brochure. I can tell you in a very real and sincere way that if Tom charged $50-100 per person, he would be out of business in about a year! (If not sooner.)

I also would add that I don't make a very large salary, either, below $20K, which is depressing in a way, but I manage to get by. I can't say what Tom makes, but I can say that the money issue is not swept under the rug, it just isn't really an issue for me personally. I value what Tom teaches and feel it is worth the price for what he offers. If anyone feels differently, hey, it is a free country and no one is forcing you to take a class. If you do take a class and feel it wasn't worth the money, talk to the school. I am sure they will refund your money and then you can get over *YOUR* money issues!

Not into throwing tomatoes, but I must say "HELLO!" Get some facts, people, please, before yacking away on the list!!!! I seem to have to write this every six months or so, and it is getting old.....

yadda yadda yadda,

--Ricardo Sierra, Hawk Circle Camp, Cherry Valley, NY

And the following are from the same source, March 1997.

Sounds like a barter system, not charity. Charity is free. No strings attached.

... But it still shows that Tom has been willing to accommodate dedicated people who can't afford the tuition. If you think you fall into this class, why don't you contact the school and ask whether there are any options. It's a bit silly to post these complaints to the list, since none of us are in a position to grant your demand, or explain why the school can't or won't give you a special deal.

In the case of Little Frank, assuming that he wasn't charged tuition for his training (which is my understanding), then the charity model fits. That he went on to become one of Tom's instructors is irrelevant.

>Show me the hundreds of acres of pine barrens or other
>threatened land that are owned by the tracker school, purchased
>with the literally millions of dollars of tuition (and that
>figure works even if you subtract 50% for insurance). I don't
>know of any, but I do know who drives a $50k hummer. Does this
>jive for you (ie, how much benefit of the doubt are you willing
>to give w/o answers)?

Since I am not privy to the schools financial records, I can't tell you whether Tom's getting rich off it, how much is going to clear debts from earlier times, and so forth. You'll have to contact the school for that information. Ditto the need for a "$50K hummer," assuming that is what Tom drives. (I've only seen him in a heavy duty pickup truck. I don't expect him to drive a beater around the backroads of the Pine Barrens).

Again, if you've got complaints or questions, take 'em to the school, since they're the ones who have the answers. Let us know what you find out. Don't be surprised if Tom doesn't think it's any of your business, however. This is America, after all.

Perhaps the school's financial records as submitted to the state for tax purposes, business license, and so forth, are public records under New Jersey law. If so, and the school won't give you the information, you can try to get them from the state.

Keep us posted.

--T. Morse

It's my understanding that the Hummer was a gift.?

--H. Jeeves


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