Insane $20 Million Deal Got Forced To Be Decided By Rock Paper Scissors
Rock paper scissors, or roshambo if you like getting wedgies from cooler kids, is a great way to decide on a lot of things, like who gets to pick takeout, or who gets control of the remote, or who has to be on top after Burrito and Adam Sandler Night. What the game usually isn't for is determining a multi-million-dollar art deal that will either make or break someone's career with a flick of the hand.
But that is exactly what happened in 2005. Takashi Hashiyama, president of the Japanese electronics company Maspro Denkoh, is an eccentric man, to say the least. When his company hit a lean year, he decided to sell off the very expensive art collection he had installed around the offices, including a Picasso, a Van Gogh, and a rare Cezanne worth $12 million. For the sale, its commission being several million dollars, Hashiyama decided to pit the two largest auction houses, Christie's and Sotheby's, against each other. But their pitches were so close, he couldn't make up his mind, sighed and told them to duke it out for the Cezanne playground-style -- with one round of rock paper scissors.
The rules were simple. Each auction house would choose an exalted champion who would enter in glorious hand-to-hand-gesture combat. The two chosen had a few days to prepare before meeting in a conference room to write down their choice salary-negotiation-style. And like prizefighters, each had their personal preparation strategy for the big fight. Sotheby's art expert Blake Koh's strategy was to do absolutely nothing at all, deciding that this was a pure game of chance, and a serious man like himself would spend no time obsessing about a game most 12-year-olds think is a bit immature.
This was not the approach of Christie's Japan president Kanar Ishibashi, who nearly drove herself insane trying to figure out the right move. Ishibashi researched, studied, prayed, wore lucky charm beads, and even consulted the greatest rock paper scissor experts that she knew: a colleague's eleven-year-old twin girls ("Everybody knows you always start with scissors," was the tween response). The pressure to reel in millions of dollars of revenue with one hand movement became so overwhelming, Ishibashi claims she "didn't quite sleep a few days." only finding peace when she had a dream where her husband revealed to her the winning move.
But all that strategizing, praying, and hallucinating paid off. When the cards were read, it turned out Ishibashi had followed the advice of the wonder twins and had gone with scissors, handily (get it?) beating Koh's pathetic paper. When the winner was announced, Ishibashi "screamed," with joy, knowing that Koh, not she, would now be called "Paper Boy" for the rest of his professional career.
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Top Image: Bill Oxford, Unsplash