Normally Roxy Jacenko likes to put a glossy PR spin on things – but this time, it’s the unpolished truth. Roxy and her husband Oliver Curtis are opening up about their very public year from hell.
Oliver spent 12 months in jail, as Roxy had a nervous breakdown and developed cancer.
Their marriage, and sanity, was pushed to its limits.
The Roxy the public knows is a woman living the high life. Growing up in Sydney’s wealthy Hunters Hill, she was just 24 when she started her own PR Agency, Sweaty Betty.
“I didn’t have uni education. I didn’t even finish TAFE,” Roxy tells Sunday Night’s Melissa Doyle. “I did one year of two years, but what I had was determination. I had passion.”
However, it was an appearance on TV reality show Celebrity Apprentice that lifted her profile. “I went from being a small operation to having four incredible businesses,” she says. “I never proactively went out there and said, ‘Look at me, look at me,’ but it’s built my business and given me amazing opportunities.”
Across Sydney Harbour in another wealthy enclave was Oliver Curtis, the investment banker from an affluent family. Five years younger than Roxy, he was on his way up in the world of finance when they met.
“He could cook, so I didn’t have to live on Deliveroo,” Roxy jokes. “He was quite handsome and… he was 24 at the time and I was like, ‘This is fantastic, I will be able to mould him into the perfect husband.’”
It appeared to be the perfect life. Within two years they’d had their first child, a little girl they named Pixie, and a lavish wedding. They soon had a baby boy, Hunter.
Family life was going smoothly, but that was all about to change. Back in 2007 – three years before the couple had even met – 21-year-old Oliver was working as an investment banker in Sydney’s CBD. Together with friend and equities dealer John Hartman, they hatched a plan to make big money through insider trading based on stock tips provided illegally by Hartman.
“Of course I regret it,” Oliver recalls. “I was a silly kid and got caught up in a world that was high finance. You push the limits. I remember my old man telling me that you fly too close to the sun, your wings get burnt – and that’s just what happens.”
And that’s exactly what did happen. John Hartman was charged with insider trading and found guilty. To reduce his own prison sentence, Hartman dobbed in his friend, Oliver.
“He was charged for something completely different to me,” Oliver explains. “I ended up being a bargaining chip. That was the cards that he decided to play. [It] certainly wouldn’t be my choice, certainly wouldn’t be something that I would want any of my children to do. I just think it’s a pretty low act.”
Oliver was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit insider trading. The trial began in May 2016 – and it was a media feeding frenzy.
Roxy only added to the publicity, posting daily photos of her designer wardrobe on Instagram, accused of turning the court room into a catwalk.
“I really took umbrage to that,” says Roxy. “I had clients who were expecting me to show that [it was] business as usual. I was known for my lift selfies. My lift selfies didn’t stop, and they certainly didn’t start when Oli’s trial started.”
Between them, Hartman and Curtis made $1.4 million. This amount was paid back in full by Oliver before he was sentenced.
The trial lasted three weeks. On the day of sentencing, Oliver was prepared for the worst. “The emotion of waking up that morning [and] going to give my kids a kiss, saying goodbye, not knowing what it would be [like] going through that emotion of giving the kids a kiss.”
“It was bad,” Roxy recalls. “Having to go home that afternoon, Pixie said to me, ‘Oh mummy, what’s wrong? Did you have a bad day in the office?’ I was like, ‘A very bad day.’ I had to lie. I remember she went, ‘Oh, where’s dad? Why isn’t dad coming home?’ and I said, ‘He’s gone to China,’ because it was the first thing I thought of.”
“Everyone was like, ‘How can you lie to your kid?’ and I’m like, ‘How could I have even thought of what to say?’ He goes to work in a suit and then he never comes home. It was bad. I’ll never forget it. Never.”
Oliver spent most of his sentence in the minimum security Cooma Correctional Centre. Just weeks into his sentence, the couple was dealt another blow when Roxy discovered a suspicious lump in her breast.
“I remember the doctor at the time,” Roxy recalls. “I was in the office with him with my mum, and he had a really sad look on his face. He said, ‘Look, I just want to tell you…’ and I said, ‘Let me guess. I’ve got cancer,” and he said, ‘Yes.’”
“I think I went in there knowing I had it. I think so much has f&*ked up; this is just going to be another thing. I already had it in my mind. I remember [Oliver] calling whilst I was sitting in the office. I just remember saying, ‘I’ve got cancer,’ and he started to cry.”
“I was very resentful, I looked at my life and I was like, how am I even in this position? ‘Life is a mess and you gave me cancer.’ That’s what I said. So I told him. I blamed him. I felt bad saying it but, to be honest, at the time I was very resentful. I was resentful [that] I had to lie to the children, I was resentful I had to be on my own, I had to work, I had to look after the children, I couldn’t cope. I had a nervous breakdown, but I had to have this public persona that was, ‘Everything is fine.’ Well, everything wasn’t fine.”
“I started living a life as soon as Oli went to jail that was fast. That was drinking too much and consuming things that I shouldn’t have been consuming. I went rogue, basically. I remember I would go out and I’d come home at all hours of the morning. I remember driving Olly’s car and parking it and then the next day I went downstairs, I’m looking at it all smashed up and I don’t even remember how I did it.”
In prison, the toughest thing for Oliver was the separation from his two children. Roxy decided to take 2-year-old Hunter to visit his dad in Cooma jail.
“I said, ‘We’re going to China today to visit daddy, but you must do me a favour, you can’t tell Pixie.’ Pixie understands, and I didn’t want her to feel that I’d left her out of visiting China. I felt like I needed to do it for Oli. Obviously I didn’t have a big presence there.”
“I think you also wanted to have people around you every time you came,” Oliver adds. “I didn’t think you want to actually have just you and I, because you didn’t want questions asked. That’s 100 percent the truth.”
The next time Oliver would see his children was when he was released from jail. Roxy arrived with the kids in a private jet she chartered.
Oliver recalls the moment. “I literally hadn’t even spoken to Pixie for 12 months, let alone seen her, so it was pretty emotional. Then [we] jumped on the plane…”
Roxy interjects: “I was Miss Awkward.”
“It was a bit awkward,” Oliver laughs. “I just held the kids the whole time. Gave her a kiss and I just cuddled them and held them, and it was amazing.”
Roxy’s always been the boss at her PR firm, Sweaty Betty. But now, there’s a new executive on her team – Oliver is Chief Operating Officer.
“I think we complement each other,” Oliver says. “She’s got her skill sets; I’ve got my skill sets.”
Just like mum and dad, the kids are showing entrepreneurial skills too. Daughter Pixie has a booming international business selling bows.
“[It’s] doing well for her,” Roxy explains. “I know that when she’s 18, she’ll have an opportunity buy property or do what she wants to do with that money. Heck, she’ll probably retire at 15!”
Pixie and Hunter also have their own YouTube channel reviewing toys.
“I’ve been critiqued for Pixie having an Instagram [and] Hunter having an Instagram,” Roxy says. “If you look on their Instagram, Pixie’s purely about her hair bow business. It’s kids from around the world who buy the bows, it’s her wearing the bows. I have never ever put anything of her in a compromising situation such as in a bath with her brother. You don’t see that. You see her doing normal kid things at the park with her bows. It would be no different if I had her on my Facebook.”
The family has come a long way since Oliver was released from prison nearly 18 months ago. Back then, he and Roxy didn’t know if their marriage even would survive.
Oliver believes life has improved significantly. “I think that’s one of the nice things about being able to come through the other side, I think we are in a much better place now. You’ve got to take the good with the bad.”
Roxy believes Oliver has changed too. “He’s a completely different person. He’s outgoing, he’s enthusiastic, he’s much more sensible with money. He’s completely different.”
In typical Roxy fashion, she won’t let anything hold her back – even her own health. She gets regular breast checks to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.
“What will be will be, and I have a duty to always have a positive mindset,” explains Roxy. “If I didn’t, I’d be in the corner crying all the time. I think the more you stew on stuff, the harder it is to get over it.”
Oliver also has a positive disposition for the future. “I’ve dealt with what most people don’t have to deal with in an entire lifetime, and I’ve got my whole life ahead of me now. I am blessed. I’ve got a beautiful wife, and two amazing children.”
Reporter: Melissa Doyle
Producer: Sandra Cleary
Roxy is a big supporter of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, which is at the forefront of world-class research into the disease. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.nbcf.org.au.