This post is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, "150 Times Around the World," by Dr Jac Fitzenz. Its a culmination of his life's travels around the world and a compelling window into his vast journeys. Take a seat and come along for the experience of a lifetime as you join Dr Jac on his travels. Click here if you'd like to be notified when "150 Times Around the World" is available for purchase.
Six years after the paper bag episode, in 2004 I was invited to Brazil again to address the 10th World Congress on Human Resource Management in Rio de Janeiro. I don’t want to be more specific for fear of getting someone in trouble. The point of another paper bag scenario was the counting of the money.
Again, at the appropriate moment shortly after I spoke, I was passed the brown bag and it was suggested I count the bills. I had another appointment on the conference program, so I gave it to, Laura, who had accompanied me on this extended trip, which would continue on to Argentina and Peru.
What ensued must have been something out of a Marx Brothers movie, as Laura explained later. She and two ladies disappeared into the nearest Ladies Room with the goods. Another woman stood outside the door and told other patrons the room was not open for use. Inside, the three laid the money on the counter and proceeded to count it. The fun started, she said, when each of them came up with a different count. This went through three iterations and each time the tension built. Finally, they agreed on the count and that the amount was appropriate. Thereupon, Laura stuffed the bundles into her large purse and headed directly for our hotel room. See how much fun you can have when you travel on business?
Actually, of late there is good news in Brazil. In 2015, I believe, a task force called Car Wash was formed. To date, it has uncovered massive fraud at the highest levels of Brazil’s government. It has already jailed over 200 politicians and recovered literally over a billion dollars from foreign banks and through fines from guilty companies. One politician had $97 million in overseas banks. It looks, at last, like the Brazilian people are out of the paper bag business.
Unexpected Pleasure. The last treat on the 2004 trip was a tour of the H. Stern watch and jewelry factory in Rio de Janeiro. Just a few blocks inland from Copacabana Beach, Stern’s factory is a fascinating experience. Stern is a luxury class watch brand. More importantly, in 1932, Patek Philippe Watch Company was in desperate need of capital. The Stern brothers saved the company with a cash infusion and acquired a majority of its shares. Today, Patek Philippe is probably the number one watch brand worldwide.
In 1933, under Stern’s management, Patek Philippe delivered its most famous watch, the Graves Supercomplication, made under commission for the American watch collector, Henry Graves, Jr. A complication is a special function and display such as a moon phase on the face of the watch. There are not one, but two faces – front and back – and inside the gold case are 920 parts, 430 screws, 110 wheels, 120 removable parts, 70 jewels, and even a little aperture that lets you peek inside to see the movements of the mechanism.
The Graves 24 complications made it the most complex watch in the world for fifty-six years. Unfortunately, Mr. Graves suffered the loss of his best friend and youngest son shortly after acquiring the watch. He considered the watch to be a bad talisman and very nearly threw it into a lake before his daughter stopped him and took the watch.
In 1999 the watch sold for $11 million at a Sotheby’s auction, the highest price ever paid for a watch up to that time. It held the record until 2018 when Paul Newman’s Rolex sold for $17.8 million.
It was fascinating to be within three feet of the horologists and watch them assemble minute parts that were measured in millimeters (10 millimeters = 0.39 inches). I suppose most tourists went to see the 98-foot statue of Christ the Redeemer on Mount Corcovado overlooking Rio. We were happy we had experienced H. Stern. Besides, I bought a gorgeous dark blue titanium watch and Laura bought a beautiful aquamarine ring.
Wonderful People. Early in my work in Brazil I met Raul Navarro and Rugenia Pomi in Sao Paolo. They were very impressive and I signed them to represent the Saratoga Institute in Brazil. They are extraordinary people. Rugenia is the founder and CEO of Sextante Brasil, a prominent consultancy. They have a thriving practice with a reputation for being on the cutting edge of management systems.
Rugenia is a highly intelligent and practical lightning bolt of energy. Her smile overwhelms people. She’s about five foot five, trim figure and shoulder length luxuriant black hair. Rugenia is a creative person who proved to be a quick learner as well as a talented marketer.
Raul is quieter, more intellectual, but also full of fun. My confidence in him was well founded. He has been a prominent, highly respected executive in Brazil’s human resources profession for decades. The last I knew he spoke Portuguese, Spanish, French and English, possibly some Italian as well. Together, this team has been very effective in introducing my valuation system to South America’s largest country. They organized conferences, published compelling models and case examples and developed an ardent following. I was privileged to meet and work with some of their clients. In fact, it was partly due to their work that I was invited to speak at the World Human Resources Conference mentioned above.
Today, six years after retiring from consulting on predictive analytics, Laura and I still maintain contact with Rugenia. Unfortunately, Raul is suffering from dementia. It is very disturbing to realize that this extraordinary human being is gradually losing himself to a terrible disease. Actually, being such a close and valued friend, it is heartbreaking to witness. Meeting and working with people like Raul and Rugenia is the greatest reward from my travels.