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SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR

LUCKY MAN British entrepreneur Mark Weingard has encountered more tragedy in his life than most but that has not stopped him from creating a luxury global hotel brand and his own charitable foundation BY CHANELLE TOURISH

epending on which way you look at it, Mark Weingard is either the unluckiest man in the world or the luckiest. The former city trader and philanthropist narrowly escaped the September 11 attacks in New York, followed by the Bali bombings in 2002 and the Boxing Day tsunami in Thailand in 2004. Weingard, 49, the founder of the Bali-based charitable foundation Inspirasia, prefers to look at it from a positive perspective. “Focus on what you can do, not what has happened,” he says from his home in Malta. His ill-fated story began on September 11, 2001 when Weingard—a former trader at Chemical Bank in London, now JP Morgan Chase— was due to attend a business meeting in Manhattan in the South Tower of the World Trade Centre. Running late that day saved his life as Weingard just missed the second plane hitting the tower in the terrorist attack, which killed 23 employees in the office he was due to visit. Just a year later, Weingard again found himself inadvertently caught up in another terrorist attack—the Bali nightclub bombing. At the time he was living in Singapore and it was an argument with his fiancee Annika Linden that prevented him from travelling with her to Bali, ultimately saving his life. Linden died in the blast, together with her group of friends celebrating a wedding. Only the bride Polly Brookes survived when terrorists bombed the Sari nightclub in Bali.

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Still reeling from his fiancee’s death, Weingard again confronted his own mortality in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which claimed more than 230,000 lives. At the time Weingard was living in Phuket, Thailand and was at home with friends when the wave hit. They managed to take refuge on the roof of his house and survived. While some might have suffered the after-effects of so much tragedy in such a short space of time, Weingard chose to fight back. “They are either going to make you or break you,” he says. “Luckily I bounced back. I don’t know why. I think maybe because my father died when I was 10 years old so I learned to deal with crisis in a strange way and try not to think backwards.” Since then, Weingard has not looked back. To this day, he refuses to watch any footage of the disasters. Instead, he has used the tragedies as fuel for expanding his business and creating his own charitable foundation. The loss of his fiancee inspired him to create the Bali-based Annika Linden Foundation since renamed Inspirasia - to help children of the city’s bombing victims. “The mission at the outset was to recognise Annika’s spirit and to do something with my life,” he says. “It has all been one interesting adventure.” Weingard’s new appreciation for life transpires through his work. After the tsunami destroyed his home in Phuket, he decided to rebuild using world-class designers but this time created a luxury hotel in its place and named it Iniala.

Global Citizen 33  

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