From Erhard to Harvard: A Landmark Timeline

When Harvard Business School got involved with Landmark, who bought Erhard’s abode, and David Letterman’s forgotten role.

1971 Werner Erhard has breakthrough while driving across Golden Gate Bridge; founds est (Erhard Seminars Training).

1973 Erhard drives a black Mercedes with the vanity plate “SO WUT.”

1975 Est claims to have trained 65,000 people; Erhard dreams of training 40 million.

1975 John Denver releases “Looking for Space,” about his est enlightenment. Later, he asks other est grads to stop sneaking backstage.

1976 Ex-Yippie Jerry Rubin recounts Erhard’s spiel: “He listened to people’s miseries…laughed in their faces and screamed, ‘YOU ASSHOLE, YOU CAUSED IT!'”

1977 Woody Allen encounters a defensive est acolyte in Annie Hall.

1979 Mork & Mindy features David Letterman playing a guru named Ellsworth, founder of erk (Ellsworth Revitalization Konditioning).

1985 Est changes its name to the Forum.

1988 Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk attends the Forum; later credits it with his “big epiphany moment.”

1989 Nicolas Cage buys Erhard’s palatial San Francisco pad, which once boasted a soundproof room, an elaborate security system, and a bedroom painted black.

1991 Erhard goes into exile. Landmark buys est’s “technology” and reportedly promises to pay Erhard a licensing fee for 18 years.

1993 While in Moscow, Erhard appears on Larry King Live; claims Scientologists are out to get him.

2002 Six Feet Under‘s Ruth Fisher tries the Plan, “one of those ’70s self-discovery clubs that yell at you and don’t let you go to the bathroom for 12 hours.”

2006 Erhard breaks media silence in Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard, a film coproduced by his lawyer.

2007 Erhard unveils new management philosophy coauthored with a Harvard Business School professor and the CEO of Landmark’s consulting arm. Message: “Integrity is the pathway to trust.”

2009 Landmark claims to have trained more than 1 million people.