Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chapter Eight

Jiao Luo watched Martin Kelo with growing astonishment as their conversation stretched past the second hour into the early morning. How was he still this awake given his activities of the long business day? She herself was feeling some of the tiring effects of international travel from Bejing, but had been able to rest well in the first class cabin and could continue for a while longer. She was starting to think though of the comfortable bed that awaited her in her hotel room.

“Thank you for that excellent report on our business in the Asian markets, Jiao”, Martin offered as he poured his hundredth cup of coffee for the day.

“It is my pleasure. It has been a very good year in my region.”

“I’m sure that it has. Business seems to be resuming, at least in the global mining markets that I am focused on.”

As Martin launched excitedly into a litany of the recovery of the minerals and mining industries that he was heavily invested in, Jiao’s mind wandered to thoughts of her travels in the last week in her home country of China. She marveled at the change that she had witnessed in her ancient land in the last twenty years of her life. Changes that allowed her to be sitting here tonight as an equal with one of the major industrialists of the Western world.

Jiao smiled inwardly as she thought about visiting with her mother in her comfortable apartment in the new city of Lou Yang. What a change that area had undergone since the period long ago when it was a capital of China for 800 years or so. The new city was booming with construction, the industry that her father had succeeded in and had given her opportunity. She had grown up in the old city in an impoverished section just off of the main street behind a hotel that served western businessmen. She had seen them walking on the street after hours, standing out among the crowd. What did they do, she wondered, to have so much?

Her father had earned that lifestyle for her, with a long slow climb through the business of construction, with the new opportunities that a loosening business climate afforded. He cultivated, and well compensated, the right members of the local Party and grew his company to thousands of employees manning the growing number of cranes building the high rise buildings across China. First in the new city across the river in Lou Yang, with the sports stadiums and the neon casinos. Eventually in Bejing, where he was called on to assist in the building boom for the Olympics.

The money from her father’s growing construction business paid for her education at one of the finest universities in China, where she studied international finance.  That degree legitimized a place on her father’s leadership team even a young woman, and helped her assume the leadership of the company when her father passed away suddenly last year. Her mother had fought for her to take the helm, against the wishes of the men who had served her father for years. She was motivated to make her mother proud of her and to expand her father’s legacy. And she chose to expand it westward, internationally.

“I want to thank you again, Jiao, for your investment in our enterprises”, Martin was saying. “The cash infusion has been instrumental for our growth in the technology sectors in this economy. Venture capital on our end is still a little tight.”

“You are welcome, Martin. But it is not a matter of generosity. We expect a considerable return on our investments in Martin Kelo Enterprises.”

“Well, nothing is guaranteed of course. We expect to take your cash infusion and turn it into profit for both of us.”

“I will, of course, be watching to ensure that we do. I see opportunities within the organization that have potential for substantial growth and profit. Opportunities in the financial markets and in the technology sectors, especially with your divisions here in the United States. I worry, however, about the government here. It is weak, and gridlocked, and it is uncertain whether the rules will change and thwart our progress to exploit the technologies.”

“Ah. Well, we do have a different government structure than in the People’s Republic. That is certainly true. There is much to be said for our form, but it has its uncertainties. We cannot just dictate the direction of business as the Party can in your land. But, we have our ways of ensuring a favorable business climate.”

“Well, I hope so Martin. We have made a sizeable investment through SouthEast Exports, and we jointly have a lot at risk.”

“Jiao, I hear you. I do.  And your presence on our board affords you a place to watch those investments. Our youngest, and lovliest, board member now I should add.”

“Martin, you flatter me. But my father did not put me on his leadership team because of my looks. I was first in my class at the university and I had excellent teachers. My father was my first, and my best, teacher. I can assure you that I am up to the task.”

“I have no doubt of that Mrs. Luo. You are a formidable addition to our board, and your father would be proud of you.”

“Martin, let’s talk about your business here in the United States. I appreciate your growth in the mining sector, but you have other divisions as well. Perhaps I can be of benefit to you in those areas where your focus has been diluted of late.”

“Financial sectors, of course. Your area of specialty. Yes, we do have interests there. Banks. Loans. Securities. Have you completed your fact finding tour of MK Financial?”

“I did indeed, last month during my tour of the United States. I visited with your executive team and have identified some areas where I believe that there is a high degree of risk, both in terms of wise investments and in terms of cybersecurity. I am not quite convinced that the lessons of the mortgage bubble meltdown of 2008 were learned and will be avoided in the future.”

“Jiao, I have experienced managers leading MK Financial, and I would not be so quick to judge them or their portfolios. But, you have a right to be convinced of their solvency. Let me arrange further meetings with that team to answer any of the questions that you have.”

“Indeed. I will be here for a large part of this month as well and will expect to have those meetings. I would like to start with the banks, and especially with the currency investments. I am troubled by what seems to be speculation in some currencies. Can you explain them?”

“Well, I see that you have been looking around. Currency is a tricky market, and is not entirely about profits. There are political considerations that might not be readily apparent to someone not familiar with the operation of our governments. Having said that, you should have access to whatever information you need to protect your investment in our enterprise. Let’s be sure that we are taking an enterprise point of view.”

“Indeed, it is to our mutual success, Martin.”

“You mentioned the technology sector. I am afraid that I have not paid much attention to our companies that sell in that area. Did you look at them on your last visit as well?”

“I did indeed. I spent some time with the division President, a Mr. Jeffery Hoenig. I find him a smart man and quite an entrepreneur. Mr. Hoenig has made an interesting array of investments and grants in emerging technologies in the energy and biomedical technologies. Some of them have immediate growth opportunities that must be exploited.”

“You’ve used that word exploited twice in this conversation, Jiao. What do you have up your sleeve?”

“Martin, you are a busy man. You have quite enough on your plate with your global mining business units. Play with your trucks and tractors and minerals and make us a lot of money. Let me look after these minor technology divisions and protect my investment. You trust me, don’t you.”

“As much as I trust anyone in business, which is not much. But I am fully engaged and there is only so much that I can watch. Do what you can with the technology division. You have my permission.”

With that, and hoping to disengage and retire to her suite downstairs, Jiao Luo changed topics.

“Martin, if I may ask, how is your dear wife Susan. I enjoyed my brief visit with her last month at the hospital.”

“Ah, Susan.” Martin grew pensive, and looked out the window. “She is, I am afraid, not faring well. She is suffering. She is in quite a bit of pain. And with all of my money I cannot lessen it.”

Jiao sat silently, as Martin reflected on his wife’s deteriorating condition. It was clearly emotional. All of that power, and he was powerless in the face of her pain.

“Martin, have you given thought to the technology that I mentioned on my last visit? There may be relief to be found there. There are amazing breakthroughs happening in the technologies of pain management and, whether you remember or not, you have funded one of them.”

“I remember you mentioning that you were going to look at one. Has that device been proved out yet? I need to know. I need to be sure.”

“Martin, I will know more later today when I visit Dr. Evans at the campus. Are you sure that you can’t go with me? It is, as I understand it, just a short distance from here by car at the University of Illinois. I have a brother studying there, and I am going to see him as well.”

“I can’t go, I am afraid. I have an engagement tonight here in Chicago at an event honoring an old friend. Then I am going to Michigan for a week to close down my Summer house on Lake Michigan. Then I am headed back to Toronto and to Susan.”

“Martin, you have so much to do and you have been going all day long into the early morning. I am going to say goodnight and retire to my suite before heading off to the campus later today. We will talk again before I leave. Thank you again for seeing me.”

“It is my pleasure, Jiao. Sleep well.”

Martin saw Mrs. Luo out and decided that it was time after this full day to nap before tonight’s dinner with his old friend Robert Ingvall.

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