He told me his name was Li Ping. He had read an article I'd written for the Journal of Oenological Lab Management on the benefits of outsourcing and wanted to discuss the implications with me. He'd called my office at the Lab and been told where I was. It did cross my mind that tracking me down in the Australian outback to discuss cost efficiencies was a bit strange. But I didn't have much else to do. After breakfast, Chinskirin had taken enough codeine to put down a bear. He'd be out all day.
So we found a cafe in downtown Shepparton and ordered two coffees.
When the drinks arrived, Li Ping handed me an envelope. In it was a letter from his boss, a Hong Kong real-estate tycoon who wished to remain anonymous. I read the letter curiously. It offered enthusiasm for my ideas about managing experimental costs via offshore lab facilities. It explained that Hong Kong has repealed the customs duty on wine with hopes of becoming a beneficial tax haven for Far East oenology. The envelope included photos of an industrial site in Guangzhou, as well as pictures of a suite of executive offices with views of the harbor in Hong Kong.
I was of course flattered by the flowery praise in the letter, but confused by the images and asked Li Ping what gives. He looked at me as if I had only the intellectual capacity of a small child and then said, slowly, so that I might understand, "My boss wants to buy your Lab and relocate your operations."
Now it was my turn to be condescending. I waved over the waitress, paid for our drinks as I pushed back my chair. "Mr Li, I'm sorry you've come so far on an empty errand. But I would never sell the Lab."
As I turned to go, he produced a second envelope from his jacket pocket. He handed it over without a word. Inside was a check. A big check. Made out to me.
"My employer hopes that you will consider continuing in your present capacity as Managing Director. He will, of course, pay all your relocation expenses. Thank you for the coffee."
With that Li Ping walked out of the cafe.
I just stood there for a while, wondering what the weather will be like in Hong Kong...