David Miscavige was born in 1960 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in the Philadelphia area to the Roman Catholic Polish-Italian family of Ron and Loretta Miscavige, along with twin sister Denise. Miscavige was raised in Willingboro Township, New Jersey. He attended high school at Marple Newtown. As a child, he suffered from asthma and severe allergies. He played baseball and football. His father, a trumpet player, became interested in Scientology, and he sent Miscavige to see a Scientologist. According to both father and son, a 45-minute Dianetics session cured his ailments.
The family joined the Church of Scientology in 1971 and eventually moved to the church's world headquarters in Saint Hill Manor, England. By the age of twelve, he was conducting Scientology auditing sessions. The family returned to Philadelphia within a few years, where Miscavige attended a local high school. Saint Hill served as his own training ground as an auditor, and he is remembered by the church as the "12-year-old prodigy" who became the youngest professional Scientology auditor. On his sixteenth birthday (1976) he left high school with his father's permission to move to Clearwater, Florida, and joined the Sea Org, a Scientologist religious order established in 1968 by L. Ron Hubbard. Some of his earliest jobs in the Sea Org included delivering telexes, grounds-keeping, food Service and taking photographs for Scientology brochures. Miscavige then joined a group of young Scientologists called the Commodore's Messenger Organization (CMO). The group started with running Hubbard's errands, but as they grew into adolescence, Hubbard increased their influence.
In 1977, Miscavige worked directly under L. Ron Hubbard as a cameraman for Scientology training films, in La Quinta, California. Hubbard appointed him to the Commodore's Messenger Organization (CMO), responsible for enforcing Hubbard's policies within the individual Scientology organizations; he became head of the CMO in 1979. By 1980, Hubbard was no longer appearing at public functions related to Scientology, and by some accounts Miscavige took effective control of the organization at this time. In 1981, he was placed in charge of the Watchdog Committee and the All Clear Unit, with the task of handling the various legal claims against Hubbard. Miscavige also became in charge of Author Services, Inc., an entity to manage Hubbard’s literary and financial affairs, which was established in the same year. After the Guardian's Office's Criminal involvement in Operation Snow White, he persuaded Mary Sue Hubbard to resign from the Guardian's Office (GO), and purged several top GO officials through ethics proceedings. The St. Petersburg Times, in a 1998 article "The Man Behind Scientology," says: "During two heated encounters, Miscavige persuaded Mary Sue Hubbard to resign. Together they composed a letter to Scientologists confirming her decision -- all without ever talking to L. Ron Hubbard." She subsequently changed her mind, believing that she had been tricked. Despite this, Miscavige claims he and Mary Sue Hubbard remained friends thereafter.
Miscavige was a deputy to church founder L. Ron Hubbard (a "Commodore's messenger") while he was a teenager. He rose to a leadership position by the early 1980s and was named Chairman of the Board of RTC in 1987. Official church biographies describe Miscavige as "the ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion".
In October 1982, Miscavige required Scientology Missions to enter new trademark usage contracts which established stricter policies on the use of Scientology materials. Over the two years following the formation of the RTC, Miscavige and his RTC team replaced most of Scientology's upper and middle management. A number of those ousted attempted to establish breakaway organizations, such as the Advanced Ability Center led by David Mayo, a former RTC board member who had also been Hubbard's personal auditor. The Advanced Ability Center closed in 1984, two years after opening.
In 1982, Miscavige set up a new organizational structure to release Hubbard from personal liability and to handle the Scientology founder's personal wealth through a corporate entity outside of the Scientology organization. He established the Religious Technology Center, in charge of licensing Scientology's intellectual property, and Author Services Inc. to manage the proceeds. Miscavige has held the title of Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center since the organization's founding. The Church of Spiritual Technology was created at the same time with an option to repurchase all of RTC's intellectual property rights. In a 1982 probate case, Ronald DeWolf, Hubbard's estranged son, accused Miscavige of embezzling from and manipulating his father. Hubbard denied this in a written statement, saying that his Business affairs were being well managed by Author Services Inc., of which Miscavige was the Chairman of the Board. In the same document L. Ron Hubbard called David Miscavige a "trusted associate" and "good friend" who had kept Hubbard's affairs in good order. A judge ruled the statement was authentic. The case was dismissed on June 27, 1983.
When L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986, Miscavige announced the death to Scientologists at the Hollywood Palladium. Shortly before Hubbard's death, an apparent order from him circulated in the Sea Org that promoted Scientologist Pat Broeker and his wife to the new rank of Loyal Officer, making them the highest-ranking members; Miscavige asserted this order had been forged. After Hubbard's death, Miscavige assumed the position of head of the Scientology organization. Miscavige holds the rank of Captain, and is the highest-ranking member of the Sea Org.
Similar charges have been reported in previous years. In 1987, the BBC Panorama program Scientology: The Road to Total Freedom? featured an interview with former member Don Larson, who described Miscavige's physical violence towards a staff member. In a 1995 interview for ITV, Stacy Young, Miscavige's former secretary and the ex-wife of Hubbard's former public relations spokesman, Robert Vaughn Young, had previously asserted that Miscavige emotionally tormented staff members on a regular basis. "His viciousness and his cruelty to staff was unlike anything that I had ever experienced in my life," she said. "He just loved to degrade the staff." In an incident also witnessed and supported by Amy Scobee, Jeff Hawkins, a former marketing guru for Scientology, claimed to have attended a meeting where Miscavige "jumped up on the conference room table, like with his feet right on the conference room table, launched himself across the table at me—I was standing—battered my face, and then shoved me down on the floor". Church executive David Bloomberg confirmed that there was a physical confrontation during the meeting but stated that it was Hawkins who became belligerent and attacked Miscavige. In the confrontation Hawkins fell out of his chair and ended up putting a scissor lock on Miscavige's legs. Bloomberg stated "Mr. Miscavige did not touch Jeff Hawkins."
Since assuming his leadership role, Miscavige has been faced with press accounts regarding alleged illegal and unethical practices of the Church of Scientology or by Miscavige himself. A 1991 Time magazine cover story on the church described Miscavige as "ringleader" of a "hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner". Miscavige stated on Nightline that the publication of the article resulted from a request by Eli Lilly, because of "the damage we had caused to their killer drug Prozac". According to a 1994 article in Regardies magazine by Journalist Patrick J. Kiger, Eli Lilly's public relations agency Hill & Knowlton, which is owned by the British conglomerate The WPP Group, was pressured by Eli Lilly to drop the Church of Scientology as a client just before the Time article was published. After the publication of the Time article, Miscavige stated that "Eli Lilly ordered a reprint of 750,000 copies of Time magazine before it came out." The Church filed a suit against Lilly, J. Walter Thompson, Hill and Knowlton and both agencies' parent group, WPP. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.
Though he and the Scientology organization have been the subject of much press attention, Miscavige has rarely spoken directly to the press. Exceptions include a televised 1992 interview by Ted Koppel of ABC News, a 1998 newspaper interview with the St. Petersburg Times, and a 1998 appearance in an A&E Investigative Reports installment called "Inside Scientology".
Miscavige is a firearms enthusiast who enjoys skeet shooting. In the 1998 St. Petersburg Times interview he named playing the piano, underwater photography, and trail biking as being among his hobbies.
David Miscavige's older brother Ronald Miscavige, Jr. served as an executive in the Sea Org for a time, but left the Church of Scientology in 2000. David's twin sister, Denise Licciardi, was hired by major Scientology donor Bryan Zwan as a top executive for the Clearwater, Florida-based company Digital Lightwave, where she was linked to an accounting scandal. Ronald's daughter Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of David Miscavige, remained in the Sea Org until 2005. She has since become an outspoken critic of the Scientology organization, publishing a book about her experience of Scientology in 2013. In the book, titled Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology And My Harrowing Escape, she stated that her grandfather Ronald Miscavige Sr. left the church in 2012 and is living with Ronald Jr. in Virginia.
Miscavige initiated a strategy in 2003 to build new or revamped Churches of Scientology, called "Ideal Churches", in every major city in the world. Since then, sixty-five new or remodeled Churches have been opened including facilities in Madrid, New York, London, Berlin, Mexico City, Rome, Washington, DC, Tel Aviv, Atlanta, Miami,San Diego, and Kaohsiung, Taiwan. In 2012, David Miscavige also opened the Church of Scientology's "National Affairs Office" in Washington D.C., which he declared to be "An office designed to give back to a United States government that steadfastly guaranteed our religious rights, the very freedom that allows us to do what we are doing today." The Church of Scientology says the National Affairs Office was built "to oversee programs around the country and the world dealing with human rights, drug addiction, literacy and disaster response".
Miscavige is married to fellow Sea Org member Michele Diane "Shelly" Miscavige, who has not been seen in public since August 2007. Multiple sources have alleged that she disappeared from Gold Base shortly after she "filled several job vacancies without her husband's permission". Author Lawrence Wright reports that "former Sea Org members say she is being guarded at a church facility on Gilman Springs Road in San Jacinto, California". In July 2012, responding to press accounts of speculation on Shelly Miscavige's whereabouts, two UK newspapers were informed by lawyers who said they represented Shelly Miscavige, "that she is not missing and devotes her time to the work of the Church of Scientology". Similarly, in August 2013, the Los Angeles Police Department made "some type of contact" with Shelly Miscavige in person following a missing-persons report filed by Actress Leah Remini. The LAPD declined to answer questions about the details of the report. Former Scientologist Leah Remini stated that her inquiries into the disappearance of Shelly were met with evasions from Church officials. The church responded later that the claims were false and had been debunked by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Tobin and Childs have continued to report on Miscavige in subsequent years. In 2009, the St. Petersburg Times published a series titled "The Truth Rundown," which featured allegations by former high-ranking executives of Scientology that Miscavige had repeatedly humiliated and physically beaten his staff, and had confined church members in degrading conditions in a Scientology-owned property known as "The Hole". The series included interviews with Mike Rinder, former official spokesperson for Scientology and Director of the Church's Office of Special Affairs, and Mark Rathbun, the former Inspector General of the Religious Technology Center. Rinder has said that he was physically assaulted by Miscavige on about 50 occasions. These allegations have been supported by other former Scientologists: Lawrence Wright, author of Going Clear, interviewed twelve individuals who reported having been personally attacked by Miscavige and twenty-one people who say they have witnessed such attacks. The Church of Scientology denies all of these reports.
"Inside Scientology: The Truth Rundown" was recognized with journalistic honors, including the 2010 Gold Medal for Public Service award from the Florida Society of News Editors. The series was cited as a basis for subsequent journalistic investigations, including a weeklong series hosted on the CNN network by Anderson Cooper.
David's father, Ron Miscavige Sr., was a longtime Scientologist who left the Church in 2012. In July 2013, Wisconsin police confronted Dwayne S. Powell after a suspicious person report. Powell said he had been hired at $10,000 a week to conduct full-time surveillance on the elder Miscavige for Scientology, which he said he had been doing for over a year. Los Angeles Times reporter Kim Christensen reports that David Miscavige and the church deny any connection to Powell in an email to The Times. Gary Soter, a church attorney, stated that the allegations were "blatantly false". Powell told police that on one occasion, he witnessed what he believed to be Ronald Sr. undergoing cardiac arrest. According to Powell, after immediately reporting the perceived emergency to his superiors, he received a call for further instructions from a man who identified himself as David Miscavige. According to the police report, Powell was instructed to not intervene in any way. Church spokesperson Karin Pouw asserted in an email that "no such conversation with Mr. Miscavige ever took place." Ron Miscavige and Dan Koon wrote Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me, which was published in May 2016.
One of the largest projects of Miscavige's career is the Flag Building, also called the "Super Power Building", which is described as the spiritual headquarters for the Scientology religion. It is the largest of Scientology's properties in Clearwater, Florida. The 377,000 square foot structure is reportedly outfitted with custom-built equipment designed to administer the supposedly perception-enhancing "Super Power Rundown" to high-level Scientologists. The building was scheduled for completion in 2003, but underwent ten years of delays and re-designs as the Church completed two other major construction and restoration projects in the same area ahead of it, the Fort Harrison Hotel and the Oak Cove Hotel. Miscavige inaugurated the Flag Building on November 17, 2013.
The Church of Scientology launched the Scientology Network, a DIRECTV broadcast and OTT streaming Service on March 12, 2018, with Miscavige introducing the first evening of broadcast in a rare on-camera appearance.