Obituary

Run Run Shaw's wife was a singer, producer and TVB head

Mona Fong met media mogul Run Run Shaw in 1952 at a club in Great World amusement park in Singapore, where she was performing.
Mona Fong met media mogul Run Run Shaw in 1952 at a club in Great World amusement park in Singapore, where she was performing.ST FILE PHOTO

HONG KONG • Mona Fong, the singer who became media mogul Run Run Shaw's companion, deputy chairman of broadcaster TVB and one of the most influential people in Hong Kong entertainment, died on Wednesday. She was 83.

Former TVB chairman Norman Leung said she died "peacefully" in Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital with family by her side. While no cause of death was given, Ming Pao Daily News said she suffered from a blood disease, which led to immunity problems.

Fong, Mr Shaw's second wife, helped him run his media empire for decades. She joined his studio Shaw Brothers as a procurement manager in 1969 and was promoted to managing director in 1996, said Hong Kong newspapers.

She racked up more than 100 producing credits on movies including The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin (1978), starring Gordon Liu; and Justice, My Foot! (1992), starring Stephen Chow.

From 1988 to her retirement in 2012, she served variously as director, deputy chairman and managing director of TVB.

Her closest friends included singer Carrie Ku Mei, actress Chen Chen and film producer Tiffany Chen, said Apple Daily.

Tiffany Chen said of Fong: "She didn't waste money on herself, or the company's miscellaneous expenses. But when it came to treating people to dinner and helping those in need, she wasn't stingy at all."

Fong was born Li Menglan in Shanghai in 1934, said Ming Pao. Her mother was a nightclub star and the two moved to Hong Kong in the 1940s.

They were poor and Fong dropped out of junior high school to sing in nightclubs. In 1952, she met Mr Shaw at a club in Great World amusement park in Singapore, where she was performing, said Apple Daily. She made quite an impression on him, although she was 17 and he was in his 40s.

Fong, who loved singing English songs, also performed in the United States and the Philippines. In the late 1950s, she signed a contract with EMI and released a number of Chinese and English songs.

She also became a dubbing singer on Mr Shaw's films and he gave her a cameo in the 1965 movie, The Lark, for which she sang The Wedding, her biggest hit. Feelings grew between them and she left her music career for him, although he did not leave his wife, Lily.

In an interview with lyricist and columnist James Wong at the time, he even said he had "the best wife in the world", reported Apple Daily.

Fong once said Mr Shaw had five roles in her life, "mentor, boss, father, friend, brother", and she did not mind not being married to him.

However, they finally tied the knot in Las Vegas in 1997, about 10 years after his first wife's death.

He died in 2014 at age 106, less than three years after he sold his stake in TVB to a consortium and retired as chairman. Ming Pao said Fong was believed to have taken charge of the Shaw family trust after his death. She liked to invest in property and was said to be worth more than HK$2 billion (S$344.9 million) herself, said the report.

There had been talk that she had married for money, but she said: "I didn't marry my boss for money because we're donating all the money to the foundation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2017, with the headline 'Run Run Shaw's wife was a singer, producer and TVB head'. Print Edition | Subscribe