Cheating death again and again - the incredible story of Mark Weingard
9/11, the Bali bombings and the Boxing Day tsunami all led to Mark Weingard making a difference.Neil Churchill February 11, 2015
If we had to guess what proverb Mark Weingard has hanging on his bedroom wall – if he has one at all – it would be a Tibetan saying, once spoken by the Daila Lama. It goes: “Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.” Weingard simply must live his life by such a belief, because the Englishman has encountered more devastating tragedy than most, and yet is extraordinary for what he has since achieved.
The story begins back on September 11, 2001, when living in Singapore, Mark travelled to New York for a business meeting in the South Tower of the World Trade Centre. Running late that day, Mark was yet to enter the building when the second hijacked plane hit the tower – 23 employees died in the office that Mark was scheduled to be in.
Amidst the tragedy that unfolded on that fateful day, Weingard could understandably have thought he had made use of his guardian angel. But just over a year later, he found himself facing a terrible moment in history once again.
In October 2002, two self-detonated explosions in the busy tourist district of Kuta on the Indonesian island of Bali killed 202 people – Weingard’s finance Annika Linden was one of them. As news of the Bali bombings spread around the world, there could have been few people who were so directly affected by the two massive global tragedies. And yet, Mark still had one more brush with death to encounter. On 26th December 2004, Boxing Day, an earthquake occurred off the east coast of Indonesia. The resulting tsunami killed around 230,000 people in 14 different countries. At the time, Weingard was living in Phuket, Thailand, and was at his home with friends when the wave hit. Eleven people died that day on Natai Beach but fortunately for Weingard he dodged death once again, taking refuge with his party on the roof of his house.
It was after that event as he attempted to rebuild his home that Mark had something of an epiphany – to hire world-class designers and expand the property to create a very unique hotel, both luxurious but also with a charitable initiative. From that idea, Iniala Beach House was born. Pouring every ounce of his creativity into the idea, Iniala became Weingard’s passion project. A man who started his career as a successful stock trader, he now owns one of Thailand’s most sought-after hotels. The loss of fiancé Annika Linden made Weingard understand what he wanted to do with his life. He created the Bali-based Annika Linden Foundation, which Weingard initially used to help children of the bombing victims.
The Foundation’s work grew with projects spanning education, health and rehabilitation. With Weingard keen to expand the foundation's remit yet further, he changed its name to Inspirasia. The foundation became an integral part to the creation of Iniala, with 10 per cent of the resort’s revenue going to the foundation, plus five per cent of the hotel’s income from its cusine and spa services.
Weingard has a strong sense of faith and vehemently believes he has survived multiple catastrophic events for a reason, namely to support and build Inspirasia and its work. He says: "I just look forward. For me, there's no point worrying about the negativity and getting angry. I have a very strong philosophy. If someone throws a ball at you, hard, the best thing you can do is hold out a bat, and that ball will go back a long way."
Weingard has another villa project set to open in Malta this year, followed by a concept in Barcelona. It’s safe to say we can expect more exciting and altruistic projects from him in the future.