Friday, August 04, 2006

It Takes Two and $15.4 million to Tango.

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have demonstrated that generosity of wealth has the power to change the world for good.
Mimi Monica Wong has demonstrated that wealth can improve one's cha-cha.
In Thursday's Wall Street Journal, Kate Linebaugh reported that Wong, the top private banker for HSBC in Asia, was dealing with legal issues regarding a payment contract of $15.4 million for 8-years of unlimited Latin-dance instruction.
I swear to you, this is true.
Wong, 61, said the price was worth it because it had been a lifelong dream of hers to dance in the Ballroom pro-am circuit.
Yes. Every young girl's dream.
Wong's first choice was to ride a unicorn to and from work, but later decided that Ballroom dancing offered more social opportunities. You know, because it isn't Friday night in Hong Kong without some Hennessy and competitive ballroom. Listen to some Asian Hip-Hop, they make that explicitly clear.
Wong's up-front payment of $8 million-- cash-- went to her instructors, Mirko Saccani and his wife, 15-time World Latin Dance Champion, Gaynor Fairweather.
Note: I think Ms. Fairweather was awarded champion for 15 consecutive years because no one else showed up. During that span of time the Macarena was HUGE and most dancers couldn't be bothered with anything else.
Anyway, Wong is now suing both instructors for that initial payment and they are counter-suing for the yet unpaid $7.4 million. The entire legal battle will be accompanied by the accordion.
The reason the deal went sour was because of an incident that took place at the Li Hua restaurant in Hong Kong, "a favorite afternoon dance venue"--because, you know, those exist. Ms. Wong and a group of other women were taking part in a mock competition-- because the other ones should be taken seriously?--and her form was off. The article says,
"That day, the banker was heavier in her steps than usual, according to statements in court. In front of fellow dancers, Mr. Saccani shouted at her to 'move your arse' and called Ms. Wong a 'lazy cow,'"
Other witnesses testified that Mr. Saccani said, "If you do it again Monica, I'll smash your head against the wall."
Saccani denies using anything but motivational language.
I'm inclined to believe him here. While I've never Ballroom danced competitively, I was involved in Tots Tumbling (until I grew to be 5'8" as a 3-year old and they kicked me out). One day while goofing off on my somersaults my coach yelled, "Do it again Monica, and I'll throw you out a window." People are always forgetting my name. But he was motivating me. And when I failed to grasp the concept that time, and was tossed out a window, I went back to the mat and owned that floor exercise.
But that's another story.

If you think $15.4 million seems too extreme for dance lessons, remember that they were unlimited. So even though it breaks down to about $5000 a day, she could go in for 2 or three lessons if she wanted. That's convenient. Also, as her skills increased and she entered bigger competitions, there were added expenses such as travel, entry-fees, costumes, and trophies. In Ballroom it's BYOT.
The article claimed that the lessons paid off. At the 2003 Emerald Ball DanceSport Championships in LA, Ms. Wong won the title, "Top Gold Lady."
I have nothing to say about that.
Fairweather and Saccani claim they'd still like to work with Ms. Wong and complete their contract saying, "becuase she was paying us $15.4 million for dance lessons."
Above the 'this is my space, this is your space' direction, above the 'head up, arms out' instruction, the best dance and business lesson to take away from this story is, don't call people cows.
I find that's the moral to almost any epic tale.

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For legal purposes only: Intellectual property right laws defy you from stealing the ideas expressed herein for the purposes of making a ballroom mockumentary. Ms. Martin calls dibs.

1 comment:

Brina said...

You are the best part of my day!