Man on a Mis­sion

Fi­nancier turned phi­lan­thropist Peter Ben­nett tells Mar­i­anna Cerini how he linked fundrais­ing for char­ity to the city’s most rum­bus­tious sport­ing event

Hong Kong Tatler - - Concierge -

Sit down with Peter Ben­nett for just a few min­utes, and you’ll be swept away by the zeal he shows for his char­ity work. The re­tired hedge fund direc­tor, who was born in Hong Kong but spent his ca­reer be­tween Lon­don and New York be­fore mov­ing back in 2005, is in­volved with a num­ber of char­ity projects in the city. His most au­da­cious is the Rugby Sevens-linked Mis­sion Pos­si­ble, a fundrais­ing ini­tia­tive launched in 2013. The con­cept is to sell seats in a do­nated premium box for a min­i­mum of HK$20,000 each, with the pro­ceeds go­ing to Hong Kong-based char­i­ties tack­ling poverty. Cor­po­rate spon­sor­ships and a silent auc­tion also help raise money. This year’s event takes place from April 7 to 9. In past years the box was do­nated by the Hong Kong Rugby Union, but this year the gov­ern­ment stepped in to back Mis­sion Pos­si­ble in part­ner­ship with the Com­mis­sion on Poverty, an in­di­ca­tion of Ben­nett’s abil­ity to har­ness peo­ple’s em­pa­thy for a good cause. You left Hong Kong when you were only 14, then re­turned to­wards the end of your ca­reer. What trig­gered that de­ci­sion, and what do you like most about the city? Be­ing born here, it felt like slip­ping back into very fa­mil­iar set­tings. Hong Kong is home. There’s an in­fec­tiously pos­i­tive at­ti­tude every­where you go, no doubt be­cause of the amaz­ing weather and the na­ture we are blessed with. The sense of com­mu­nity was also a ma­jor draw, es­pe­cially com­pared to New York or Lon­don. It’s easy for peo­ple of all back­grounds and pro­fes­sions to con­nect here… it makes events like Mis­sion Pos­si­ble, well, pos­si­ble.

The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of char­ity. Why did you de­cide to hold Mis­sion Pos­si­ble dur­ing the tour­na­ment? I am a huge rugby fan. The idea to run Mis­sion Pos­si­ble dur­ing the Sevens came partly from that. I thought that con­nect­ing a great sport like rugby—and a world­class event like the Hong Kong Sevens—with the equally great char­i­ta­ble mis­sion of rais­ing funds and aware­ness for poverty al­le­vi­a­tion in the city would make the tour­na­ment even wor­thier of its recog­ni­tion, and Hong Kong a bet­ter place. Mis­sion Pos­si­ble is like a bridge be­tween two sides of Hong Kong: that of the hard­ships many peo­ple en­dure and that of the fun and cel­e­bra­tory spirit those of us who are luck­ier get to em­brace. I’m for what­ever fos­ters pos­i­tive change; if we can have fun and give back at the same time, then let’s keep the party go­ing.

What’s your most amus­ing mem­ory from the past four in­stal­ments of Mis­sion Pos­si­ble? The time the Vil­lage Peo­ple came to hang out at our box two years ago. It was crazy and com­pletely un­ex­pected. They par­tied with us for a good hour. Clearly we had the best box at the Sevens.

Last year you dressed up as Spi­der-man, the year be­fore as the Queen of Hearts. What’s your cos­tume go­ing to be this time? I haven’t de­cided yet. GOD [Goods of De­sire] is de­sign­ing our box and we’re think­ing of a 1970s Hong Kong theme. So we’ll see… Maybe I can try to repli­cate a po­lice of­fi­cer uni­form from that era?

Your great­est piece of ad­vice? I have two. If you want some­thing to change, or you want to help on a par­tic­u­lar is­sue, get out there and do it. It doesn’t mat­ter if you don’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence. Just get in­volved, how­ever you can. My se­cond piece of ad­vice is for peo­ple who are for­tu­nate enough to have more money than they need: give back to char­ity. We re­ally don’t need much to lead a happy life. The rest can go to help oth­ers, and trust me, there’s no bet­ter way to spend your money than that.

To buy tick­ets for seats in Mis­sion Pos­si­ble’s Rugby Sevens box, and to learn about this year’s ben­e­fi­cia­ries, visit mis­sion­pos­si­ble.org.hk

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