01/29/2013 05:20 pm ET

Robert Duggan, Top Scientology Donor, Becomes A Billionaire

Francois Mori, AP

This isn't the greatest time for the Church of Scientology; a new book takes a critical look at the religious group. But Scientologists may have one reason to be optimistic: Their biggest donor, Robert W. Duggan, has just become a billionaire, Bloomberg reports.

Duggan is the CEO of Pharmacyclics, and the company has pioneered a new cancer drug called Ibrutinib to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The cancer tends to hit elderly people who may not be able to survive chemotherapy. Duggan owns almost one-fifth of the company's shares, Bloomberg reports, and its stock price has more than tripled over the past year.

Duggan is now worth $1.2 billion, according to Bloomberg. He has also donated more than $20 million to the Church of Scientology.

Fundraising is important for the Church of Scientology. The group sets fundraising quotas for some of its officials, who pressure church members to donate. The church is holding $1 billion in liquid assets, a value that "eclipses the holdings of most major world religions," according to author Lawrence Wright, who wrote the book Going Clear, an exploration of the religion.

Scientology was founded in 1954 by a science fiction writer, and the group's leadership has been accused of spying, intimidation and violence. Its membership is reportedly dwindling and down to 30,000 members currently, according to Wright. In one high-profile example of a member leaving the church, actress Katie Holmes left prominent Scientologist Tom Cruise and the religion after five years of marriage.



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