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Updated: Jul 26, 2019

In 2012, after the headline-grabbing Everest summit rock controversy had simmered down, I discovered that Namgel and Thundu Sherpa did not possess the requisite ability to sell watches. Communication was always an issue with the two hardy mountaineers. Thundu’s English was extremely poor and when the two Sherpas arrived in America, I instituted an English-only policy. Every day, we held two informal hour-long English lessons for Namgel and Thundu. Even after ten months of living in the U.S., Thundu's English had not improved enough to provide him the ability to speak clearly and confidently, nor the fluidity necessary to sell watches.

Namgel, on the other hand, made significant progress in his verbal English skills. However, Namgel possessed an inability to look people in the eyes and a tendency to mumble his words. American and European tourists could barely understand anything Namgel said and while he understood most of what they told him, Namgel simply could not carry a conversation and talk about watches with any sophistication. This was not my own assessment, but that of a young woman, Pranita Bade, whom I convinced Namgel and Thundu to hire in order to help them sell watches. “We don’t need any employees, Mike,” Namgel had told me. I convinced him that they should at least give Pranita and another young woman, Sajni, a chance. “If you want to go on treks in the autumn, you should at least have someone who watches over the shop,” I advised Namgel and Thundu.

Pranita and Sajni hailed from the Kathmandu Valley’s Newa caste. Their polished English, inviting smiles and great sense of humor made them naturally predisposed as salespeople. “Wow, these girls are so beautiful, where did you find them,” a European visitor standing outside the shop remarked to me one day, shortly after Pranita and Sajni began working for Kobold Nepal. The two Newaris became so good at selling watches that I wondered whether Kobold Nepal might eventually rival Kobold USA. “If this continues,” I told Prithivi Pande, “we might have to talk about buying an apartment in one of your developments.” First, however, I wanted to help Namgel and Thundu raise enough money to buy a plot of land in the Khumbu district, near Mount Everest, so that the two could build a lodge and live there with their families, taking advantage of the tourism boom. This idea was borne out of Namgel and Thundu’s desire to leave behind the pollution of Kathmandu behind and live in the Khumbu. Unfortunately, this plan never became reality.

Less than a year after Pranita and Sajni began selling Made in Nepal watches faster than even I had hoped, I discovered by chance that Namgel had fired the two young saleswomen. “Why did you fire them,” I asked Namgel. “Hmm, too beautiful,” he said. “But Namgel, these were the only people in your company know how to sell watches, it doesn’t make sense that you fired them.” Namgel didn’t hesitate with his response. “No, Mike, we sold all the watches, not them. Thundu and I did. We will sell them now.” I was astonished, but there was nothing I could do about this mind-numbingly bad decision. After all, when Kobold Nepal was founded, I had decided that the two Sherpas should be the sole shareholders and co-directors. This would give them all of the control over the company. The only control I had, was the decision whether to continue shipping Kobold watch parts to Kobold Nepal. “You made a very big mistake, I hope you’re right and are able to sell watches without the help of those two women” I said to Namgel. Yes this was not an isolated case of Namgel and Thundu refusing to take my advice.

One of the elements of success is hard work, at least in my experience. I therefore counseled the two Sherpas to work at least 12 hours a day until the business was running so smoothly, that they could afford to cut back to a 10-hour-long workday. Yet as I was to later discover, most days Namgel and Thundu hardly worked at all, even on the days when they did arrive at their company’s workshop and boutique. Kobold Nepal’s boutique opened between and 11 A.M. and 12 P.M., yet by 5 or 6 P.M. the two Sherpas usually were on their way home. “You can’t just work six hours on average,” I admonished Namgel, “I work 14 hours every day. How do you think I built my company?” Namgel protested by saying that there were not enough visitors to warrant him and Thundu staying longer than 6 P.M. This, too, made no sense, I explained to Namgel. “The French restaurant next door only starts seeing a crowd at around 7 or 8. That’s when you should be open. There’s two of you, so just alternate. One day Thundu stays late, the next day you do.” Namgel wouldn’t have any of it. Meanwhile, the most successful shops in the shopping complex stayed open until at least 8 P.M.

Another point of contention was the promotional activity of Kobold Nepal. My U.S. company had printed two sets of posters, one featuring both Sir Ranulph Fiennes and a Kobold watch and the other depicting a large picture of the Kobold Himalaya. I told Namgel that these posters are a free form of advertising and that they should be hung in lodges all along the main trail that runs through the Khumbu. Tens of thousands of foreign climbers and trekkers pass through these lodges each year, I reasoned, and if they repeatedly saw a picture of a beautiful Made in Nepal Kobold Himalaya, perhaps they would buy one on return to Kathmandu. Four tourist seasons passed before Namgel and Thundu finally began hanging up posters in a fa small handful of lodges.

I also suggested to Namgel that he should speak with all the trekking agencies, tour operators, hotel concierges and individual guides to financially motivate them to lead tourists to the shopping complex where Kobold Nepal’s boutique was situated. The landlord, G2 Rana, had at one time done a good job at promoting the place, but his promotional efforts had ceased years before Namgel and Thundu rented space from G2. As a result, the place rarely had any footfall. Namgel complained about this lack of visitors in a number of emails to me. Yet each time I asked Namgel if he had spoken to any tour operators to encourage them to take visitors to the beautiful restored Rana complex, Namgel gave me a new excuse for not having spoken to any tourism industry professionals. “You are VIP, Mike, they will listen to you, we are just Sherpa,” was one of the excuses Namgel used repeatedly.

As if to add insult to injury, Namgel and Thundu spent the main tourist seasons out of the Kathmandu Valley, just when the greatest number of potential customers visited the shopping complex where Kobold Nepal was located. Instead of the two celebrity Sherpa-mountain-guides-turned-watchmakers, visitors to the shop met Namgel’s cousin, who spoke barely enough English to explain to me who he is. So instead of trying to sell watches to potential customers, Namgel and Thundu went trekking with paying clients.

All of this haplessness soon caught up with Namgel and Thundu as sales at Kobold Nepal dwindled. At least this is how Namgel would make it appear in emails and conversations with me.

“We want to shut this company down, Mike. We want to go back to climbing and trekking.” I was momentarily speechless. The reason why my American colleagues and I had invested so much time, effort and money into providing Namgel and Thundu with an opportunity to become successful entrepreneurs was that both Sherpas, as well as their families, had repeatedly told me that they felt mountaineering was too dangerous. Namgel told this to countless newspaper and television reporters. I envisioned one or both of my friends dying in a mountaineering accident and convinced Namgel not to give up. “You saw what happened last season, right,” I asked Namgel. “Those were your friends on the mountain who died, that could have been you. You must think of your families, what happens to them if you die? Please, stick with the company,” I implored Namgel.

I knew that appealing to Namgel was the only way to get Thundu to stay with the company. Originally, only Namgel was supposed to stay with my family and me in America, but when we discovered that Namgel would have to leave behind his wife and daughter, I invited Thundu to join him, so that Namgel would have someone to relate to during what was sure to be a monumental step into a new world. By virtue of his inability to speak English, Thundu became Namgel’s sidekick despite being more experienced and about ten years older. This dynamic in their relationship continued once Namgel and Thundu returned to Nepal. I sometimes felt that Namgel was manipulating Thundu, especially when I’d have one-on-one conversations with Thundu. “Hmm, have to check Namgel,” Thundu would often tell me.

The topic of shutting down Kobold Nepal came up frequently in subsequent conversations with Namgel. In April 2014, 16 Sherpas, many of them Namgel and Thundu’s friends, died in a massive avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall above Everest Base Camp. I thought this incident would put to an end the subject Namgel and Thundu returning to climbing. The following spring, Namgel informed me that Thundu intended to climb Everest. Knowing the amount of influence Namgel had over Thundu, I was furious that Namgel would not try harder to dissuade Thundu.

“Are you kidding me? Do you realize what will happen if Thundu dies? You have your parents up in Dingboche, they will take care of your wife and daughter, Namgel, should anything ever happen to you. Thundu has nobody. Are you going to take care of his widow? Do you expect me to do so? After everything I’ve done for you two? All the money, the time…the best people in my company helped you guys become watchmakers and you fucked it all up by being a lazy, pig-headed Sherpa who doesn’t listen to anyone’s advice except Iswari. As if Iswari is your goddamn owner. You are your own boss now, you don’t need Iswari. But instead of listening to me or to Prithivi you take Iswari’s advice and whomever else you’re talking to. What the fuck, Namgel? We are the people who worked hard to change your lives, to give you a better future. I’ve designed two more watch models for you, they say Made in Nepal on them only because you complained that there aren’t enough sales. But you haven’t even assembled a single Transglobe yet,” I yelled.

Admittedly, by far my worst quality is my temper. Although I have learned to wait to get angry and loud until the 5th time that I have to repeat myself, once angered I don’t quickly let up. Namgel got the full blow of my frustration over his absurd behavior. If this guy would’ve only listened to anything I’ve been telling him for the last few years, none of this would have happened, I thought. The fact was, however, that while irate over their complete disregard for any advice offered to them, I still felt protective of Namgel and Thundu.

The Soarway Transglobe was originally supposed to be a watch with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as the origin designation, but after Namgel complained that sales had dropped off, I decided to bring the watch out as a Made in Nepal model, hoping that it would increase sales in Kathmandu. This meant that the watch would automatically be sold at $2,000 less than had it been a Pittsburgh model, complete with a Made in USA case. The U.S. watch market was going through a major downturn at around the same time and so we lost a lot more to Kobold Nepal than just a simple watch model, but a flagship model that would have made a windfall profit for Kobold USA.

Instead of selling the new Kobold Soarway Transglobe at a premium, we sold it to our U.S. customers at a steep discount while shipping sets of the watch to Kobold Nepal free of charge. With two exceptions, all shipments of watch parts to Kobold Nepal were free, including tens of thousands of dollars in watchmaking tools and machinery. In return, Kobold Nepal covered the costs of my stays in Nepal and paid for my airfare. My room rate at the Hyatt was substantially less than the lowest published rate and tickets for flights that originated in Nepal cost a fraction of the same identical flights originating in Europe or America. This is especially true for intercontinental first class tickets, which when starting a journey in Nepal cost as much as a heavily discounted business class originating in the U.S. or Europe. So to claim, as Namgel subsequently would, that the expenses associated with my visits to Nepal –during which I worked exclusively on helping make Namgel and Thundu successful in their new venture- were the reason for Kobold Nepal’s demise is a fabrication.

As I would eventually discover, Namgel became well-versed in telling lies that don’t hold up to even the slightest scrutiny. In late 2014 and again shortly after the first earthquake of 2015, Namgel requested a personal loan from me. Despite being upset with him for his shortcomings as an entrepreneur and his unwillingness to accept any of my advice, I still loved Namgel and Thundu, and thus asked my Kobold USA’s business manager to send wire transfers totaling more than $15,000 to Kobold Nepal.

“This is a gift, I don’t expect you to pay me back,” I explained to Namgel after the first wire transfer had been dispatched. “Please let me know once you receive the wire.” A few days later, in an email to me, Namgel acknowledged receipt of the wire transfer and thanked me. After I ordered the second wire sent, Namgel again thanked me in an email. These payments are documented, but over the course of working with Namgel and Thundu, there were many instances when I gave them money in cash. Never imagining than Namgel would one day erroneously claim that neither he nor Thundu were ever paid in the four years that we worked together, I never asked for a single receipt. I estimate that in 2012 alone, I personally handed Namgel over $10,000 in cash.

One day, on a flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok, the passenger next to me expressed an interest in one of my two watches. “When am I ever going to sit next to the man whose name is on the watch I’m wearing,” the gentleman told me before he handed me an envelope with $4,000 that he pulled from his carry-on bag. The watch thus changed changed ownership mid-air. By the time I landed in Kathmandu a few days later, I’d spent about $1,000 and handed the rest to Namgel. Likewise, when we were working on setting up the shop, I purchased all of the furniture, artwork and accessories with cash that I had drawn from Iswari Poudel’s company and from the front desk of the Hyatt Regency in Kathmandu. Another time, when Namgel was in need of money, I asked my office manager in Pittsburgh to send a Western Union transfer. These are not small sums by any means, but after experiencing an extended boom, my U.S. company afforded me the ability to support Namgel and Thundu.

In an email, Namgel once explained to me that he and Thundu and their respective families lived on approximately $6,000 per year and this amount sufficed to make ends meet in Kathmandu. So quite how the two could have run out of money, even after firing their only sales staff, had always been a mystery to me. “Namgel and Thundu are always playing pool with their friends in Boudha,” an ex-staff member of Kobold Nepal told me one day. When I confronted Thundu about this, knowing that he would be far more susceptible to defend this allegation rather than denying it altogether, which I assumed would be Namgel’s response, Thundu said “yes, I am playing but only sometimes. Work is very boring. No visitors, no sales,” Thundu said by phone.

Six months later, in September 2015, I sat across from Namgel and Thundu in Kathmandu. The same ex-staff member who told me about Candy Crush told me that during the rare occasions on which Namgel and Thundu did visit the office, the two grown men would not interact with the other staff but instead busy themselves with an online game called Candy Crush. I first had to research Candy Crush before confronting Namgel and Thundu about the allegation. “Who told you we play Candy Crush,” Thundu said uncharacteristically loudly, clearly astonished at the fact that someone at the office had leaked this information to me. “Forget Candy Crush for a moment,” I said. “I purchased a big conference table so that everyone could sit together during lunchtime and talk.”

The employees at Kobold Nepal had complained repeatedly about the fact that neither Sherpa would interact with them. My solution was to encourage them to all sit together at least once a day. I also asked Namgel and Thundu to only speak English to each other and to their employees, rather than Sherpa or Nepali, in order for them to stay in practice. “The staff tell me you guys never talk to them and that you only speak in Sherpa to each other. Is this true,” I asked. Thundu looked down at his hands and after a pause Namgel, who never could make eye-contact for more than a few seconds, looked to the side and answered “yes, we speak in Sherpa because it is easier for us.”

While I was still in America, Namgel had told me repeatedly that there were no sales at the company for a year and that he and Thundu intended to shut the company down. As soon as I visited Nepal, I asked both Sherpas to meet with me in a last-ditch effort to explain to them that they would be far-better off if they kept Kobold Nepal going. “Think about your families, guys,” I said. “Our families are under severe pressure because there are no sales. We have had no income. We had to borrow money from friends,” Namgel said. This didn’t make any sense to me. Over the years, Kobold USA had shipped watch components to make enough watches to allow Kobold Nepal to flourish for many years.

Specially for Kobold Nepal, Kobold USA had designed and produced parts for three unique models: the Himalaya, Lynx and the Soarway Transglobe, which was equipped with specially modified movement and a watch that appealed naturally to many collectors. We shipped over two dozen costly Soarway Transglobe kits alone. In addition, we designed and shipped dozens of cases and a great variety dials for the Himalaya, which was available in both 44mm and 41mm, the latter version being more popular with the Nepalese crowd. Yet when I searched the Kobold Nepal inventory, I found fewer than a half-dozen watches that were fully assembled and on display. “How do you expect customers to buy watches if you only have four watches on display,” I asked Namgel. “And look at your window display, it looks terrible. Like someone just threw a bunch of random items in and failed to arrange any of them,” I said. “We don’t have customers here, so nobody see this,” Namgel said. I did notice a 44mm Himalaya with a radiant, gold-tone dial with sunburst pattern in the window. “That looks very beautiful, I’m surprised nobody has bought it, because we’ve never built one up in the U.S. It’s such a rare watch,” I said.

A few days later I left Kathmandu on a business trip. When I returned two weeks later, I noticed three additional watches in the window display. The gold-dial Himalaya was gone, but an equally beautiful Himalaya with a navy blue face was on a much more well-organized display. They finally sold a watch again! I thought to myself. “No, Mike, we didn’t sell anything while you were gone. The blue watch we built after we took the gold dial watch apart. We did it for practice, you said we need to practice,” Namgel said. I had indeed told Namgel and Thundu that even if there were no customers, they could at least assemble watches to stay in practice. That evening, on my way home, I received a phone call from Rajni Nakarmi, the young woman who was in charge of Kobold Nepal’s leather goods production.

“Mike, the Sherpas are lying to you,” Rajni said. I knew that Namgel had lied to me repeatedly, but I was surprised to hear Rajni use the plural form of the word Sherpa. “They sold the gold dial watch as soon as you left. A customer saw it and bought it. Then they quickly built up a blue watch and told you that they switched the dial.” I was astonished. “But Rajni, are you sure this is what happened? Namgel showed me a bank statement that showed no sales for last month.” Rajni’s revelation took me by great surprise. “Mike, they opened another bank account with a different bank. When they process sales by credit card, they use this bank account. When they sell things cash, they don’t tell you. It has been like this since I started working here.”

The next time I visited Kobold Nepal’s workshop and boutique I arrived precisely when the mail arrived. “What’s this,” I asked Namgel, “a statement from Himalayan Bank. I thought you guys bank with Nepal Investment Bank.” Namgel looked shocked. Unable to get out a single word, he slowly opened the envelope and pulled out the statement. I reviewed the statement and discovered that Rajni was correct about the gold-dialed Himalaya having sold. This was not the only sale that month, however. “Namgel, you sold all of these accessories? That’s almost a thousand dollars in leather accessories alone.” According to the statement, Kobold Nepal had processed over $5,000 in credit card transactions the previous month. This was in addition to whatever cash sales took place, which the bank statement did not reflect. “Namgel, you guys have lied to me? After everything I’ve done for you,” I asked. Namgel looked down on the floor. “Yes, we lied to you.” I asked to see the previous months’ bank statements but Namgel refused to show them to me.

“We thought you would spend a lot of money and so we didn’t show you the sales.” I hadn’t visited Nepal in over three years and on previous occasions the total expenses absorbed by Kobold Nepal on my behalf were less than $20,000 in 18 months. This stood in sharp contrast to over $200,000 in cash injections and free shipments of watch components. “Namgel, the point is you lied to me not once but so many times. You lied about everything. And then, whenever I caught you in a lie, you changed your story. Now this is on paper. You can’t lie anymore and you can’t twist the story,” I said angrily. “We don’t want this company anymore. We will shut it down tomorrow,” Namgel yelled at me. I exploded “you think I did all this for you and then you can just destroy it? You had so many sales that you didn’t tell me about. What happened to the money?” I had asked Rajni to secretly search for all watch components and was astonished to learn that there wasn’t much left in terms of cases, movements and dials. A clear indication that something very strange had happened at Kobold Nepal.

A few weeks later, Namgel, Thundu and I met again in the offices of the company’s accountant. A lawyer representing Namgel and Thundu and another lawyer representing my interests were also present. After arriving half an hour late, Namgel and Thundu’s lawyer, a disheveled looking man, told me that his clients each demanded $10,000 per year plus that Kobold would never use the name Sherpa again in any subsequent marketing campaigns. In addition, I was to pay all of the debts Namgel and Thundu had run up over the course of three years. The lawyer then said “if you don’t comply with this request, my clients will speak with the Sherpas in the Khumbu and say what you did to them. You will never be able to return to the Khumbu, Mr. Kobold.” This was the third I had received the same threat from Namgel, now delivered via his attorney. “Mr. Kobold, you cannot expect my clients to work for you for free,” the lawyer continued. After the lawyer had finished his remarks, I asked if that was all. “Yes, those are the only requests my clients have. If you meet them, the company will be transferred into someone else’s name, whomever you designate. But if you don’t comply, then we will dissolve the company and sell off all its assets.” I looked at Namgel and Thundu and paused for a long while before I trained my eyes on their lawyer. It would be the last time that I’d see Thundu.

“I have done everything for your clients, more than I have ever done for anyone else. I have spent $100,000 in airfare just to make sure that they could see their families, which they did twice during their training. I have made my best people available to train them. I have given them hundreds of thousands of dollars in free watch parts and cash. I have also given them my word that I would always be there for them in case they needed anything. Before and after the earthquakes I sent them money, a lot of money, so that they would be fine. I arranged for safe place for them and their families. I convinced the U.S. embassy, the German embassy and the Thai embassy to give them visas even though over 90% of people who apply for visas in Nepal are rejected. They have been to far more states in the U.S. than most Americans. They have lived a first class life while they lived with my family and with me. We paid for all their meals, their clothing, accomodations, everything. When we visited Nepal with them, I gave them cash for their families. And now you’re sitting here demanding $80,000. You say they are each owed $10,000 per year, yet in an email to me Namgel states that he and Thundu live on less than $6,000 per year. Your one client has repeatedly lied to me, he has attacked me and he has threatened me, including in writing. And as if all of this weren’t enough, you’re now also demanding that I pay their debts and that I never use the name Sherpa again. Is this correct,” I asked the lawyer.

“Yes, Mr. Kobold, you are correct,” the lawyer said. “Well, here’s my counter-offer to your clients. I will pay zero dollars to either of them. I will, however, absorb all of their debts. I will continue using the name Sherpa in any way I want because Sherpa is a family name and a job description. Your clients don’t have the right to stop me or anyone else from using it,” I said. The lawyer looked at Namgel and Thundu and nodded.

“When I walk out of this room, which will be precisely in 1 minute, my representatives will draft an agreement outlining what I have just offered. If your clients don’t sign the agreement by the end of the day, I will report them to the police for embezzlement and for threatening me. Remember that your client put this threat in an email. I will then speak with each media organization that has covered their amazing story and report what happened here today and what happened since the company was founded. I will report that Namgel told lies to the Government of Nepal committee set up to investigate the Everest rock controversy. In closing, I have only this to add: I am really sorry that your clients have taken your advice in making these ridiculous demands But, this, too, is part of a pattern of behavior they have exhibited previously, when they took their former employer’s bad advice. I now suggest to you to think carefully about my offer. You have already made a mistake in threatening me here today. Don’t make a second mistake, it will be your last, because I will report you to the bar association for threatening me. Have a pleasant day.” I got up, shook everyone’s hand and turned around. “But, Mr. Kobold, please sit down. Please, one moment. Please come back,” the disheveled looking attorney called as I walked out of the room.

That afternoon, I received word that Namgel and Thundu had agreed to my proposal. I felt sad and defeated. Yet the next month, Kobold Nepal had sales of over $10,000 and began to prosper once again.

A few months later, Thundu Sherpa died on Mount Ama Dablam. I woke up to the news and cried. I just couldn’t believe how unnecessary his death was. Shikher Prasai, the owner-operator of Natraj Tours & Travels, one of Nepal’s oldest and most respected tour operators, who was one of Kobold Nepal’s first and most loyal customers, told me “you made a big mistake. You gave them the keys to the castle. They didn’t know how to be their own bosses and for them the amount of money was too big, it blew their minds. After they saved your life on Everest you should have just given them $10,000 each and then given them some money every time you visited Nepal. Then they wouldn’t have been corrupted. This is how it always goes in Nepal. To them, these were huge sums of money and you have to remember that all of their friends and former colleagues were probably really jealous of them, asking them for gifts and loans. Then they might have had to pay a few bribes to keep the authorities in check, especially after that Everest rock news came out,” Shikher said.

“In Nepal, everyone is jealous of everyone else’s success,” Ram Kharel, the nephew of prime minister K.P. Oli once told me. “If someone does slightly better than you, gets a promotion, a raise, buys a new car or something else, then your wife will ask you why you aren’t doing better. Then you feel bad inside and you become even more jealous. Maybe you weren’t jealous at first, because the person is your friend, but when your wife is done talking with you, you feel jealous. So I am sure a lot of people were jealous of your friends,” Ram said. I never found out if Namgel and Thundu had gambling debts or other reasons to go through so much money, but back in the U.S. I had witnessed first-hand how the gambling debts and drinking problems of an ex-Kobold USA employee wracked havoc in that individual’s life.

At one of the puja ceremonies for Thundu, Namgel blamed me for Thundu’s death and rallied his contemporaries, all of them climbing Sherpas, against me. An atmosphere of aggression permeated the tranquil Sherpa gompa in Boudha and I was glad that I had brought a good friend, American diplomat, along to the ceremony. Thundu’s uncle calmed the younger Sherpas down and told them that he didn’t think I was to blame. He also told this to Thundu’s widow, Bandi, whom Namgel had clearly influenced negatively. I felt it wasn’t the time or the place to explain to Bandi what had actually happened at Kobold Nepal. I did assure her that I would support her and Thundu’s boys. As in all subsequent meetings, I left an envelope containing approximately cash equal to one month’s salary for an average Nepalese worker for her. It would be another year until Bandi and I would sit together with a translator and a Swiss psychologist to explain in detail what Namgel had done.


The below emails are excerpts of a number of other emails that all reveal the fact that Kobold USA supported Kobold Nepal, an independent company jointly owned by Namgel and Thundu Sherpa:

Date: July 8, 2014

From: Michael Kobold

To: Namgel Sherpa


I have made every attempt to guide you in this adventure of owning and managing a business. 

Unfortunately, your attitude from the beginning has been very poor.

Not only did you ignore my (and Prithivi’s advice) not to lie to the ministry about the rocks, you listened to Iswari.

I think you have no idea how incredibly dumb that decision was. You complain to me for years that Iswari makes all the money on the backs of the Sherpas, that Kamee is an honest Sherpa but has no money while Iswari owns his own helicopter, and so on. Yet instead of listening to the person who has spent a fortune on educating you, bringing to you to America and Europe, setting up your own business, etc, you listen to…Iswari. The same man you accuse of being self-serving. Think about that for a minute. You really made a dumb decision.

The same can be said of many, many other decisions you have made. You listen to your instinct, but you are continuously wrong.

This makes me very sad.

You are not a bad person. So why do you do this?

Why, Namgel, do you continue to make dumb decisions? Why, when you are a simple Sherpa who has yet to learn the ways of the world, do you listen to your instinct instead of to the person who has proven that he has your best interest at heart (that person is me, if you haven’t figured this out)?

Why would you send threatening emails (“we will destroy your name among all the Sherpa communities”) to that same person?

You are not a bad person, Namgel. 

So why do you do this?

It’s simple: because you are afraid.

You don’t know what the right decision is, so you simply try to run away from your problems. 

Instead, you should learn to solve problems in a logical and beneficial manner. 

I have found a small motivational text that I would like you to read. Click on the link below. 

You will see that this applies directly to running a business. The same lessons you had to apply in mountaineering apply in business as well.

You just have to choose to apply them.

Once you do, you will succeed. 

I am going to send you a wire as soon as you begin sending me daily updates again. I have asked you to send me daily updates on over two dozen occasions, most recently last week. Yet you still have not sent me a daily update, even today. Namgel, these daily updates are not trivial. They are important. Why are you not sending them? Why do you ignore my instructions? 

I assume you have not made any attempts to assemble a Transglobe. Why haven’t you contacted Dale to learn how to assemble the Transglobe? You’ve had the watch parts for a week and could already be selling the Transglobe.  Instead, you bother me with simple issues like the photographer. Namgel, you need to change…fast!

Now read this and come to your senses.


Date: August 7, 2014

From: Michael Kobold

To: Namgel Sherpa


I am not happy with you.

You complained about money and so I sent you a wire transfer. You also sold a watch so you have enough money to pay the bills.

After making many changes to the product line-up you finally are receiving the parts, worth thousands of dollars - for free!

You complained about G2 and the situation with the rent. So I call you, get all the details, coach you on what to do, send a strong-worded email to G2 defending you, and then ask you to tell me what happened with G2 the next day. What do you do? Ignore all my calls and messages.

This is not what I expect from you.

You have every reason to be confident about the future of the business. We will send you more components and you will soon be making more money than you can spend.

Yet you continue to be negative and ignore my advice and my requests.

Namgel, I expect more from you.

Send me an email with detailed answers to all my questions, please.

Thank you, Mike

Date: December 12, 2014

From: Namgel Sherpa

To: Michael Kobold

Dear Mike,

Thank you for the Images for thangka dials and the wire.

Thank you,

Best Wishes, 

Namgel Sherpa


Kobold Watch Company Nepal (Pvt.) (Ltd.)


The watch forum's administrator could not have known any of the above information when she typed out her extremely one-sided post, because she never contacted me or anyone else at Kobold in the course of her research. A group of attorneys in New York, Pittsburgh and Dallas analyzed all of the false information contained in the post and determined that from a financial perspective there was no merit in filing a defamation suit against the company as it lacked any real assets. “It’ll cost you at least $100,000 for the depositions alone,” attorney Rand Mintzer told me from Texas. “If you win, which is highly likely, the only thing you can do is force them to publish a retraction. Then they’ll be bankrupt and nobody will see the retraction.”

My attention trained on events in Nepal related to the fire truck expedition, I decided to ignore the post. There were more pressing matters to address. Despite a significant amount of hard work, high-level contacts and the goodwill of the Nepali media, signing up sponsors for the fire truck expedition proved difficult. Due to the lengthy delay in getting the expedition off the ground, rumors began making the rounds in Kathmandu that the fire trucks didn’t really exist and that I was only using the expedition as a front of some other business. Before long, even officials at the Nepal Tourism Board began hearing rumors that I was a purported C.I.A. officer. This was a problem, because while Kathmandu is full of spies, everyone is afraid of dealing with them, especially when they’re not officially attached to one of the many embassies. Sitting with one of the expedition’s management team, I told Shradha Shrestha at the Nepal Tourism Board “I’m not a spy, despite what rumors you might have heard.” Shradha’s reply surprised me. “Oh, Mike, don’t worry, we always thought you were a spy, even before the rumors.”

In order to dispel the rumors and to explain why the expedition had been delayed, I wrote a book, Nepal Needs Fire Trucks. The launch party was attended by a small selection of Who’s Who in Kathmandu, and Deepak Joshi, the CEO of Nepal Tourism Board, Sunil Thapa, the Nepal-born Bollywood star, as well as American mountaineering legend and filmmaker David Breashears acted as co-presenters along with my publisher, Bidur Dangol and me. Hastily written in order to meet Bidur’s requirement of being available before Christmas, the book quelled some of the concerns of various authorities. Already, an inquiry into my dealings in Nepal was being conducted by the Criminal Investigations Bureau, Nepal’s version of the FBI. A friend inside CIB confided that there was a concern that my activities were related to illegal spying. This was not good news at all and I thus formulated a plan to publicly demonstrate that my motivations were solely to promote Nepal as a safe tourism destination – the fire truck expedition’s stated mission, since the 2015 earthquake had robbed it of its original charitable purpose.

“Malcolm, can you please come to Nepal, I’m in a little bit of trouble and could really use your help here,” I told Malcolm McDowell via FaceTime, “people have started to doubt the fire truck expedition will ever happen.” Without hesitation, Malcolm said “I’d love to come to Nepal, Mike, but I have surgery coming up. After that I need to rest.” Malcolm’s visit would potentially calm the fears of Nepal’s paranoid investigators, who would see that we were actively promoting Nepal tourism. In several previous meetings at Malcolm’s home in Ojai, California, I had explained to the famous Hollywood actor my mission in Nepal and Malcolm offered his full support. Now I was asking him for a very big favor, namely to give up a few days of his time to travel halfway around the world to bail the expedition and me out of impeding trouble. “I can’t tell you everything over the phone, but once you’re back on your feet, you really should come to Nepal for a small vacation, see the mountains, relax. I’ve spoken with Manisha Koirala, the Bollywood actress, and she’s game to do a recce for the expedition with you. We’d film you guys driving around Nepal. It’ll be easy, you’ll love it,” I said. Malcolm understood.

A month later, Manisha Koirala and I stood at the door of a Turkish Airlines Airbus A330 and welcomed Malcolm to Kathmandu.

Click on the link below for Part 5 - "The Royal Rana"

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