May 25, 2016

Why I left China

At the end of 2009, I left China in something of a hurry. Let me outline why.

One of the companies I’d founded – a chain of language schools, called Kai En - was going bankrupt. The problem came about after the US economy went south and the language school’s client-base dried up. There were big changes in the market.

I hadn’t actually worked at the language schools since 2005 but I still had shares in them. (I worked at ChinesePod between 2005-9.)

But three years of heavy losses drained myself and the other shareholders financially. From 2007 – 2009 our efforts to keep it alive cost us pretty much everything we had. By the end of 2009, we had run out of resources and out of options.

When I spoke to a Chinese bankruptcy lawyer in Oct 2009 he told me that Chinese law would not protect us. He described scenarios where anything could happen. The realities of the law there became horrifyingly clear to us.

Yet I was still surprised when he advised us to leave and solve the problem from offshore. We simply could not expect the legal protection otherwise.

It’s hard to explain the vulnerability you feel in China with a family in tow, some powerful people lining up against you, and a lawyer who tells you to solve it from offshore. So, we left.

Since then I’ve worked with the parties concerned in China from a base in Taiwan. Most of the mess has been cleaned up and I believe most of the people who suffered from the bankruptcy have been compensated. I hope to return to China in the new year.

In the meantime I plan to move on and try to re-build.

Ken Carroll

    Ken Carroll

    After 25 years in content and content marketing, this: If you're not leading, you're wasting your breath.If you're not innovating, disrupting, changing the game, then you may as well just stop.Content and media are dynamic. So, think big, lead, go change something.
    If you liked this post...
    sign up here for free email updates and special offers


    1. Ken Carroll says:

      If there are outstanding issues please send me a working contact email. I can’t address anonymous comments or commentors without a contact address.



    2. ik says:

      All the best for the move back Ken.
      I wonder what your opinion on this article by a Brit who lived in China for many years, then decided to pack up and leave is.


    3. bababardwan says:

      Wow Ken. I’m impressed. I’m under the impression that most folk who go bankrupt just file for bankruptcy and then move on, wiping their hands of it….never to go back and try and compensate those affected. Respect. I’m glad you all came out of it unscathed and that the dark days are behind you. I wish you and your family all the best in your move back to China. 加油 ! 万岁


      • Ken Carroll says:

        Hey Baba,

        Thanks for this. I’m not certain that everyone has been compensated but I’ve tried. A couple of people left messages here saying they had lost out but they were anonymous of left no contact details. I will follow up on all genuine messages with contact details.

        So, I wouldnlt quite say I, or anyone else, came through unscathed. Bankruptcies are harsh. But it’s time to move on and do new things.

        I’ll let you know as they progress.



    4. Matthew Rudy says:

      Great to hear you’re heading back to China.

      I started learning Chinese listening to Jenny and yourself.
      It was a shame you had to leave Chinesepod.

      Good luck in the new year.

    5. a-fan-from-2006 says:

      Good luck Ken. You did some good work at ChinesePod. It made a big difference for me, and it was really something special, particularly in the first three years. I’ve done three start-ups, and C-pod certainly had all the same traits. glad that one worked out, and hope you share in some of that.

      I signed up for you feed — keep us all posted on what you do next.



      • Ken Carroll says:

        Thanks so much for this. The last couple of years have not been the most pleasant so it’s nice to hear this kind of support. As it happens I’m just about to launch something new. Please feel free to offer any feedback.


    6. Mohamed Moshaya says:

      Hi Ken,

      Best of luck… We certainly miss listening to you at ChinesePod. I have been a listener since almost the beginning, and you have inspired me to start

      All the best

    7. Michael Koch says:

      First congratulations on your public commentary on a very private and difficult ending to a business and home in a country you must have loved to inspire you to have taken such a risk.
      A CPA I’m completing my MBA and will travel to Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai in May 2014 followed up by the required business plan on a sustainable business on the mainland.
      As we would have it one of our team members works for a NY based language school and so the theme of our sub-group’s paper, which leads me to one question if I may?
      What would you have done or could have done differently that would have enabled you to sustain your school?
      Were some of the underlying factors: limited expatriate market, reducing spending by the same group, limited Chinese market penetration, increased government regulations/ taxes or limited capital on a terminal business?
      Perhaps we’ll have tea in Beijing one day. Thanks Ken and good luck on your future endeavors

    8. Stephen says:

      Dear Ken,
      I am so sorry to hear you have been through
      Financial hell. You revolutionized how languages are taught
      Through those magnificent lessons you and Jenny used
      To do. In my opinion the techniques developed at chinesepod are
      Second to none. Thank you for introducing me to the wonderful
      World of language learning.

    9. Steve says:

      I have been studying Chinese with your beautiful voice with ChinesePod.
      I actually looked to find out where you are, and to get a hold of you.
      I have put together a business program for Chinese businesses, to help them increase their business with the west, by educating them of the differences in culture, and more. I even thought of getting you interested in the program as well. But now, that you are no longer working in China, I was wondering if you still have your contacts, that would be interested…

    10. Luke says:

      Glad things have worked out for you. I have been listening to you on Chinesepod recently and wondered why you were not in the more recent lessons. Chinesepod is a great site with great content. Best on the web because it has a human interest factor due to the lessons actually being interesting.

      I have subscribed to your mailing list so look forward to getting ideas from your posts which may help me with a site I just started for learning Chinese.

    Speak Your Mind