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Clinton Session With Robbins, Motivational Guru, Confirmed : Consulting: New Age figure went to Camp David. Spokesman says President is meeting with a variety of experts to discuss issues.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Anthony J. Robbins, a Del Mar motivational guru and the king of late-night infomercials, was summoned to Camp David, Md., recently for a consultation with President Clinton, the White House confirmed Monday.

Reports of the Robbins-Clinton meeting was the talk of Washington after talk-show impresario Rush Limbaugh joked about it on his daily show. Robbins’ office also acknowledged the Dec. 30 meeting on Monday, but beyond that, offered a terse no comment.

“The president has had a lot of individuals come up and visit and talk with him at Camp David,” said a White House spokesman, who asked not to be identified. “Robbins is merely the latest on the list.”

A leader in the New Age movement and a frequent defendant and plaintiff in litigation, Robbins has said his life’s work is helping people with “image problems realize their full potential.”

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Robbins’ mother and sister live in an ocean-front home in Huntington Beach that he bought for them.

On Monday, neither Robbins nor the White House was shedding much light on the Camp David session, other than to say it was their business.

“Tony has a consistent policy,” spokeswoman Carolyn Rangel said Monday from the La Jolla-based Robbins Research International. “Any meetings he conducts, particularly with President Clinton, are private matters. They’re privileged, and he does not provide details. He’s not available. He’s not conducting interviews. Understand?”

“Tony doesn’t feel it would be appropriate to make a comment,” said Gene Schwam, president of Hanson and Schwam Public Relations in Century City, a firm hired by Robbins. “I think you can understand the sensitivity of the situation. Everyone feels that if statements are made, they should come out of Washington and not Del Mar.”

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Another White House spokesman, Mark Gearan, addressed the subject of the meeting by saying it was part of the president’s endeavor to conduct a broad series of get-togethers with politicians, business leaders, presidential historians and communicators on what Clinton calls “the issues of the day.”

Gearan said the sessions were arranged by Clinton and were private, meaning they were not “staffed out"--that is, arranged and directed by White House staff.

The session at Camp David also involved Stephen R. Covey, author of the best-selling book on management, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Gearan said.

Another White House spokesman said Monday that he “did not know” if the president paid a fee to Robbins, who charges corporations upward of $60,000 for a one-day conference.

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Schwam said he had “no idea whether, in this case, Tony was a paid consultant, which he usually is.”

Charismatic is a word often applied to the 6-foot-7 Robbins, who has the muscular build of a professional basketball player and the shoe size to match (16EE). But increasingly in recent years, controversial is more often the description.

The 34-year-old owner of a castle overlooking Del Mar has drawn numerous lawsuits in recent years from disgruntled franchisees, one of whom accused him of operating a pyramid scheme.

The suits, seven of which were on file in San Diego County Superior Court in 1991, were recently settled out of court for undisclosed sums.

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Robbins, who owns nine companies, including a resort in Fiji, is a much-in-demand “peak-performance consultant” who popularized the 1980s trend of “fire walking.”

He pioneered the New Age pastime that encouraged paying participants to take a barefoot stroll on hot coals and have them not burn their feet, then use the experience as an affirmation of the power of positive thinking.

In recent years, however, Robbins has done a different kind of fire walk--involving lawyers.

While being the defendant in suits from San Diego to Dallas to Atlanta, he also has been a consistent plaintiff.

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Seeking a greater share of his TV-related profits, he recently sued the Palm Desert-based Guthy-Renker Corp., the erstwhile producer of his infomercials--30- to 60-minute chats, co-hosted by former quarterback Fran Tarkenton, or actor Martin Sheen--that have reached an estimated 100 million viewers in 200 markets.

A spokeswoman for Guthy-Renker said Monday that the company produces Robbins’ existing infomercials, matched only by diet guru Susan (“Stop the Insanity!”) Powter’s in popularity but recently stopped production on a third because of the pending litigation.


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