04 August 2006

TGIS: Thank God It's Schadenfreude! (75)

This week's joy in the misfortune of others comes courtesy of The Wall Street Journal (from Thursday, August 3; subscription required):
As the top Asia private banker for HSBC Holdings PLC, Mimi Monica Wong knows how to make wealth last. But these days, she is better known for the millions she lost perfecting her rumba.

Two years ago, Ms. Wong agreed to pay $15.4 million for eight years of unlimited Latin-dance instruction. About half of that sum she paid up front, in cash. The 61-year-old widow recently said she was "looking for the last bit of glory in life."

But the arrangement soured even before it took effect. Now Ms. Wong is suing her dance instructors in a Hong Kong court seeking the return of her $8 million pre-payment. The instructors, 15-time world Latin dance champion Gaynor Fairweather, of the U.K., and her Italian husband Mirko Saccani, are countersuing for the $7.4 million outstanding under the agreement.

. . . .

What upended the multimillion-dollar dance partnership was an incident on a Wednesday afternoon in August of 2004. At the Li Hua restaurant, a favorite afternoon dance venue, Ms. Wong and a group of other women were taking part in a mock competition.

That day, the banker was heavier in her step 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," according to court documents.

Other dance teachers testified his verbal abuse contained threats of physical violence. Instructor Philip Redmond told the court he heard Mr. Saccani say, "If you do it again, Monica, I'll smash your head against the wall." Mr. Saccani denies having said anything beyond some "motivational" language, though he admits to shouting expletives at her.

. . . .

Ms. Wong has a new instructor, whom she is paying, according to statements in court, $21,000 a month.

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