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Timezone Report:The Truth Behind Michael Kobold and the Kobold Watch Co.  Rate Topic 
 Posted: Mon Jan 29th, 2018 02:36 pm
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as reported on Timezone:


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The Truth Behind Michael Kobold & the Kobold Watch Co. Fri, 26 January 2018 10:44 Soarway Foundation website highlights Kobold's accomplishments:
In 2009 and 2010 Michael reached the summit of Mount Everest via the South Col. Both expeditions raised money for the Navy SEAL Fund. In 2012, Kobold opened the first watch company in the Himalayas, employing two Sherpas mountain guides as watchmakers. That year, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai of Nepal appointed Michael as Goodwill Ambassador of Nepal.

Yet, I discovered several contradictions of facts concerning the paragraph, above. First, according to the charity, neither Michael Kobold nor the Kobold Watch Co. donated monies to the Navy SEAL Fund. Second, according to the surviving Sherpa, neither watchmaker was paid during their four years of servitude. Instead, both Sherpas left Kobold Watch Co. years ago, resumed their dangerous occupations as mountain guides, and one was killed in a Himalayan avalanche in November 2016. Finally, the Nepal Government does not list Michael Kobold as a Goodwill Ambassador.


Michael Kobold, Ang Namgel & Kenton Cool display a Navy SEAL flag at Everest

The nonprofit 501c3 Navy SEAL Warrior Fund supported families of US Navy SEALs "who have died while serving our country, or who are presently serving in harm's way in trouble spots around the world". The Kobold Watch Co. website even linked to a publication claiming, "When Michael Kobold decided to summit Mount Everest, no one thought it was crazier than he did. But he accepted the challenge, and raised more than $250,000 for wounded warriors in the process." Ethos, Volume 6.

I contacted David Guernsey, former Executive Director of the Navy SEAL Warrior Fund. Although Mr. Guernsey recalls once seeing a photo of a nondescript watch, he never met Michael Kobold and never received a $250,000 donation to benefit the Navy SEALs.

Since the Navy SEAL Warrior Fund folded into the Navy SEAL Foundation, I also followed-up with the foundation to inquire further. Neither charity has a record of any donation from Michael Kobold or the Kobold Watch Co.

Yet, as Michael Kobold blogged during the expeditions, he used the charity's name to solicit corporate sponsorships from nearly two dozen companies, including Land Rover, The North Face, Hershey's, Apple, Shell, Honda Power Equipment, UPS and many other businesses to fund both his Everest expeditions.

He gained these sponsorships by ostensibly calling his first expedition the "2009 Everest Challenge in Support of the Navy SEAL Warrior Fund", and his sequel the "2010 Everest Challenge in Support of the Navy SEAL Warrior Fund".

However, the main beneficiary of all this fundraising appears to be Michael Kobold.


Kobold Watch Co.'s charitable irregularities are not isolated to the Navy SEAL Fund. On the contrary, since 2006, the Kobold Watch Co. marketed its association with Philippe Cousteau, Jr., the grandson of the legendary explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau.

According to Kobold Watch Co. press releases, Philippe Cousteau, Jr. collaborated with the Kobold Watch Co. for the benefit of EarthEcho International, Cousteau's nonprofit 501c3 conservation organization. EarthEcho would receive 10% of the net proceeds from the sale of every Large Soarway Diver, a limited edition of 150 timepieces. At launch, Kobold Watch Co. sold the Large Soarway Diver for $4,250.

In estimation, gross sales revenues amounted to $637,500 (or 150 x $4,250).

The so-called limited edition of 150 timepieces sold well beyond the timeframe of reasonable expectations. Rather than being a limited edition of 150 timepieces, it appears that the Large Soarway Diver was offered for sale on the Kobold Watch Co. website for over a decade.

Yet, notwithstanding that Kobold regularly used, and continues to use, Philippe Cousteau's name for over a decade, to date, EarthEcho International has no accounting of any donation from Michael Kobold or the Kobold Watch Co.


The next effort to distill facts from fiction is Michael Kobold's claim of "employing" two Sherpa mountain guides as watchmakers. Over the years, Kobold regularly recounted the drama of his second Everest summit in 2010. On the descent, tragedy struck at Camp II, at an elevation of 21,500 feet, when his wife Anita Kobold collapsed on the mountainside and was pronounced dead.

Ang Namgel Sherpa and Lakpa Thundu Sherpa heroically retrieved a medical bag, and Anita revived back to life after she was administered adrenaline and steroid shots. So the story goes, Kobold thereafter "hired" the two Sherpas to make Kobold watches in Nepal. For years, Michael Kobold praised himself for providing the Sherpas a means to earn a living besides mountaineering.

Lapka Thundu, Ang Namgel & Michael Kobold

Throughout 2011, Michael Kobold paraded the Sherpas at Baselworld, showcased them at collector events and staged publicity shoots of them at his Pennsylvania farmhouse. When the Sherpas returned home to Nepal the following year, the Kobold Watch Co. launched the ill-conceived Kobold Himalaya Edition fitted with a stone dial cut from a piece of Mount Everest.

All Kobold Himalaya editions reportedly sold out within a week

By industry standards, the Himalaya watch appeared to be an epic fail from the onset. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of Sagarmatha National Park, it is unlawful to remove rock samples from Mount Everest without a license, and Kobold Watch Co. failed to obtain the license. Notwithstanding, Michael Kobold claimed the Himalaya watches sold out. According to the Nepali Times and Outside Online, "The first batch of 10 Himalaya Editions sold out that [debut] night".

According to the same reports, the rest of the Himalaya editions sold out within a week. Given the brisk demand for all 25 of these $16,500 limited edition watches, it's curious, then, how the rest of this story takes a sharp turn.

Upon contacting Ang Namgel Sherpa and Lakpa Thundu Sherpa via Facebook, I received a response from Namgel. Namgel explained that neither watchmaker was ever paid in the four years they worked for the Kobold Watch Co. Instead, Michael Kobold claimed all the benefits of their enterprise, forcing Namgel and Thundu to resume their dangerous occupations as mountain guides. Thundu died during a Himalayan avalanche on Mount Ama Dablam on November 28, 2016. In his own words, Namgel writes,

I was out from Kobold two years ago. Because Michael kobold was taking all the benifits [sic] and didn't pay us for four years. So Thundu and left the Kobold and till now they didn't open any [Kathmandu] Watchmaking Insitute. I am back to my treking job again. But unfortunately, Thundu died on mountain last year. We have no contact with Kobold.

Despite their obvious differences, Michael Kobold habitually reaches out to newspapers and media outlets as the Sherpas' self-appointed spokesperson. Yet, according to sources, Kobold is an opportunist who exploits his relationships for publicity and self-promotion. For example, immediately after Thundu's death, Michael Kobold contacted media outlets to not only eulogize Thundu, but to also explain away how the Sherpas left the Kobold Watch Co. and the reasons he shuttered his Nepal watchmaking outpost, the Kobold Watch Company Nepal (Pvt.) Ltd. Kobold cited reasons such as boredom, the 2015 earthquake, governmental bureaucracy, and a lack of consumer demand for "Made in Nepal" watchmaking.

Yet, none of those reasons explain why Kobold never paid his Sherpa watchmakers. Recall that in 2012, Michael Kobold claimed all 25 of those $16,500 Himalaya watches sold-out within a week. In other words, watchmakers Ang Namgel Sherpa and Lapka Thundu Sherpa made the Himalaya watches that generated upwards of $412,500 in sales revenues (or 25 x $16,500). Yet, those watchmakers never received a penny for their years of servitude.

Ang Namgel Sherpa & Lakpa Thundu Sherpa were never paid as Kobold watchmakers

Lakpa Thundu Sherpa died in a Himalayan avalanche in November 2016

According to sources, in 2013, Michael Kobold also exploited his relationship with James Gandolfini when the actor suddenly died while vacationing in Italy. He moved into action as the family's self-appointed spokesperson and interviewed with as many media outlets as possible. According to one well-vetted source, "When there was an opportunity to become a family spokesperson, Kobold jumped in front of a microphone."

Kobold insinuated himself into press interviews seeking publicity and to humblebrag about his connections with a former U.S. President, Secretary of State, and the political elite who pulled the necessary strings to assist Kobold in transporting Mr. Gandolfini's body from abroad. Yet, the well-vetted source flatly rejects Kobold's mischaracterization of his role. Rather, sources acknowledge that HBO was instrumental in managing the family matter. HBO managed the legal formalities, HBO provided a private jet, and "HBO did everything."

When I asked whether Kobold is an opportunist, the well-vetted source replied pointedly, "Yes. He does inject himself in things. That's who he is, he's a promoter." As told to me by multiple sources, Michael Kobold is the type of person who puts his arm around famous people like Bill Clinton, in order to pose for a picture that he can later self-promote.


Another twist in Michael Kobold's self-aggrandizements is his claim that former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattari of Nepal appointed Kobold to be the country's Goodwill Ambassador. Although I reached out to Mr. Bhattari for comment, he did not reply before the publication of this article.

Notwithstanding, according to a published list maintained by the Nepal Government, there are 22 professional mountaineers recognized as Goodwill Ambassadors by the Nepal Ministry of Culture, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, and the Nepal Tourism Board. Unsurprisingly, Michael Kobold is not listed by the government as a Goodwill Ambassador of Nepal.


For as long as he's operated Kobold Watch Co., Michael Kobold has been a serial name-dropper and self-promoter. However, his antics seem to transcend aggressive marketing. Yet another source closely tied with Michael Kobold spoke of a criminal conviction that exposed a deep character flaw; that is, Kobold's pattern of deception.

According to public court records, in 2002, Michael Kobold flashed a law enforcement badge he purchased from a Pittsburgh uniform store to a TSA agent in order to gain access to a secured area of the Pittsburgh International Airport. As an airport security protocol, U.S. Customs agents not only manually log every officer's badge number, but also the information contained on an officer's identification card.

Not only is Michael Kobold not a law officer anywhere on Planet Earth, when he lied to a U.S. Customs agent about being in law enforcement, he also made fraudulent statements concerning his citizenship in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 1001. Although state charges against him for impersonating a police officer were dropped, the federal charge concerning his being a foreign national who lied about being an American went to trial. A jury convicted Michael Kobold of the crime in 2003 (United States v. Michael Kobold, D.C. No.: 03-cr-00010, WDPA D.C. 2003), and a federal judge upheld his conviction in a U.S. appellate court. (United States v. Michael Kobold, No. 04-1800, 3rd Cir. 2004).

The conviction came with serious consequences. As part of his sentencing, Michael Kobold was deported from the United States, excluded from reentry for one year, and given 3 years probation.

As a contingency for his reentry, Michael Kobold was also ordered to pay 5 years of back taxes owed. Upon completion of these terms, he could apply for a conditional 6-month VISA subject to a number of stipulations. One of the stipulations is that Kobold continue filing timely tax returns, and continue making timely tax payments, going forward. A source closely tied with Michael Kobold states that his VISA was cancelled two years ago.


Ending this article where it began, finally, loops back to the Soarway Foundation. The charity appears to be named after Kobold Watch Co.'s popular Soarway dive watch, and its stated mission is to benefit Nepal.

The Soarway Foundation is not like other charities. With its confusing organizational structure, there seems to be overlap between commercial and nonprofit activities. Celebrity endorsements promote Expedition Nepal, described as a private commercial venture. Acting luminaries such as Malcolm McDowell, Scott Glenn and Michael Imperioli appeal for funds to purchase firetrucks and safety equipment for Nepal. Meanwhile, those same messages are commingled with solicitations to donate to the nonprofit Soarway Foundation.

How those endorsements are being used and where monies are going needs more clarity. Yet, the details remain unclear.

A skeleton crew runs the Soarway Foundation. The three-member team includes Executive Director Scott H. Delisi, Founder Michael Kobold and Executive Vice-President Devin Orsi. The Soarway Foundation is registered at 342 W Pike St, Canonsburg, PA 15317.

A simple Google search reveals that the charity is headquartered at the Last Call Bar & Grill. The Soarway Foundation Executive VP is also the barkeep owner of the Last Call. At the Soarway Foundation, patrons can have a big heart for Nepal and a $5 pitcher of Miller Lite on game nights:

Soarway Foundation HQ at the Last Call (Photo: Google)

The Last Call does its part to raise awareness with a bar menu that includes Mt. Everest Loaded Fries and Himalaya Nachos. With a 3.5-star Yelp rating, reviews are mixed, but one reviewer reports that the fries are "crispy". Unfortunately, however, purchases of the fries & nachos are not tax deductible.

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 Posted: Mon Jan 29th, 2018 05:52 pm
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Joined: Thu Mar 26th, 2009
Location: Colorado USA
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Pretty crazy read...and stunning that this guy would live his life like this given the exposure of the brand.

A true fraud, con artist, thief, and overall bad guy...truly disturbed by his treatment of the two Sherpas, beyond sad! no.gif

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 Posted: Mon Jan 29th, 2018 11:06 pm
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Joined: Wed Mar 10th, 2010
Location: Canada
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Good read, what a scumbag. Glad I have never purchased one of his pieces.

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