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This past Sat ur day, with the arrest and pub lic humil i a tion of its for eign owner by Bei jing author i ties, the Kro’s Nest unof fi cially ended its five year run. The offi cial end will come at the end of the legal bat tle that Saturday’s inci dent has kicked off. It’s a shame because things didn’t need to turn out this way. I once believed that if God had it writ ten in stone that every for eign restau rant owner in Bei jing was guar an teed to lose every penny of invest ment put in, no mat ter the cir cum stances, Kro would still come out ahead, because he was above the circumstances.
Indeed, Kro, for longer than a short while, was above a lot of things. Above the ordi nary, above expec ta tion, and above the law, or below it if you hap pen to under stand that legal pro tec tions in China extend up the social hier ar chy, not down. He graced the cover of mul ti ple inter na tional mag a zines, starred in CCTV cook ing shows, and appeared in a FHM celebrity photo shoot, all before his twenty-fourth birth day. He was pro claimed a restau rant prodigy by Beijing’s Eng lish lan guage press, and treated like a celebrity by Chi nese gos sip mag a zines. Hated and loved, respected more often than reviled.
Whether The Truth be des tiny, free will, or chaos, I believed he could defy the holy sub lime just like he had defied the expec ta tions of young South ern gen try by refus ing to be any thing but blue col lar while a stu dent at Atlanta’s Westmin ster acad emy; just like he had defied his pious, lawyer father, first by going to col lege in Hawaii, instead of Ivy, and then get ting a full body, seven dragon tattoo.
Today Kro finds him self in a posi tion where he may never see a dime of the many mil lions of ren menbi his restau rants have accrued over a five year period. Kro is closer to broke than kept, think ing about mov ing back in with his Chi nese par ents — his sec ond mother and father - and his lawyers are work ing this case pro-bono, unless any money is actu ally recovered.
By con trast, today Kro’s for mer part ner, Yuan Jie (袁捷), who always insisted that Kro had, in fact, at least three fathers, because to him, too, Kro was like a son, has ten mil lion RMB sit ting in a bank account. It’s a joint bank account Yuan Jie keeps with his wife, a China Revlon exec u tive. It’s ten mil lion RMB he’s not sup posed to have, because the account ing books his wife’s for mer employee turned Kro’s Nest accoun tant, Zhang Yan (张妍), kept and then showed to Kro say that this money does not exist. Those account ing books, indeed, say that the Kro’s Nest is los ing money, and has been for more than a year now, even though this past Novem ber the rent on the biggest of the three Kro’s Nest restau rants fell by more than a half, an arrange ment that Kro nego ti ated with out Yuan Jie’s help.
Maybe this hap pened because Yuan Jie’s wife gave birth to a baby boy two years ago, and Yuan Jie decided that there is noth ing like a son except for a son. Maybe it hap pened because Yuan Jie’s wife no longer liked Kro. Maybe Yuan Jie no longer likes Kro. In any case, Yuan Jie stopped talk ing to Kro a month ago, four weeks before this past, humil i at ing Saturday.
Irri tated, that’s how I feel. I was one of Kro’s first for eign employ ees, and man aged a large part of the busi ness for a period stretch ing from 2007 to the tail end of 2008, when I was the restau rants’ “Da Jing Li” or Gen eral Manager. Kro and I spent so much time try ing to prepar ing so that a day like this past Sat ur day would never come that it’s plain irri tat ing that the day c