Letters

09-21-2000

Raving Mad

Editor's note: Maryanne "Mare" Chisholm and her husband, Mark, are the owners of Safari Media, which has been placed in receivership.

Owner's lament: I thank James Hibberd for his hard work, his time, and his effort to report "Ecstatic Fall" (September 7). He spoke to many people, and did the best he could to give an impartial narrative. I do not agree with many of the things stated in this article. However, I understand his need to get the perspective of many different people, including employees -- disgruntled or not.

There was one line in the article that was a complete fallacy, and should be corrected: "It looks exactly like what it is: the home of a couple of flamboyant, trance-loving, mid-30s club kids whose Web design company has raised millions in investment capital -- millions the Chisholms used to support their extravagant lifestyle."

Where is the conviction or judgment stating this is true? The word "allegedly" was obviously missing.

I feel it is important to tell you our position, and our overall sentiment about where we stand in regard to our lives now, and Safari Media (past and present).

We stand behind our pride in Safari. We can look back now and see who our real friends are, and who the employees and associates were who truly deserved success, and the credit for jobs well done.

When we became successful, many opportunities were presented, some good, some bad, some tempting and some dangerous. My mistake lay above anything else in the belief that the people I trusted would take the "morally ethical road." They would not abuse us or the company. They would work hard, and not take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

I see how wrong I was about this, how many people took advantage, and how easily I had been convinced of lies when so many people stood before me swearing their hard work and allegiance.

This is no one's fault but my own, and why I must make things right.

I can only tell you that Mark and I worked very hard, and we believed with all of our hearts that the people we entrusted in high roles did as well. Some people called executive salaries exorbitant; however, the salaries paid were scale for the positions 98 percent of the staff members held.

Mark and I did not take a salary, and we often subsidized Safari with our own funds, resulting in a multimillion-dollar loss from our own family. For the record, the highest-paid employees earned an average of $7,000 a month, with the exception of roughly four board members who without question abused their positions and power. We invested a lot of funds into our promotions; however, Mark and I personally invested several million dollars into Safari over the years, and the music department did not spend more than our investment even if all promotions were combined. However, this is not what is conveyed, and is again no one's fault but my own.

Reactions to pain vary in many people; some people have nervous breakdowns, some people flee. My husband fought alcoholism, I fought depression and weakly placed my trust in the wrong people. For this I will pay for the rest of my life.

The music department was a success. It was not marked by attendance at events; the events served as means for publicity. I am reminded of a group of deaf shareholders that attended our event, Zen, last year where more than 14,000 people were in attendance. The lasting impression with them was a positive one, not the dark misery portrayed by several of our past employees. It gained well-spread recognition. We stand behind our pride in this department, although it is deeply distressing to see how many people poisoned what we had set out to achieve with cheap rumors, distorted "partying" portrayals or fantasy ideology. Regardless, all people have a right to speak their mind, even if we do not agree with them. I was foolish enough to hire these people; accordingly, I must now listen to them rant and belittle what Mark and I had worked so hard for, for so many years.

My family is reflecting on the past five years, the people with whom we misplaced our trust, and the future in which we will fight to correct the wrongs that so many are now paying for as a result of my poor judgment in the majority of the moral character of many of the people we employed.

I want to remember what Mark and I worked so hard to build, over embittered employees or associates who took advantage of Safari; at this moment, this is difficult. I will say that this experience will undoubtedly make me stronger, and though it would be easy to cower and run, I will not. Nor will my family; we're in it for the long haul, and we will fight to set things right.

You do not have to agree with us, or forgive us, but I do ask you to recognize that in life many investments are risks, and many of those risks are lost. It is my intention to see that your risk with Safari is not lost. I do recognize that my naiveté should not cost any of you anything.

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