An East-meets-West entrepreneur

Hong Kong businessman David Tang, who founded fashion brand Shanghai Tang, battled liver cancer.
Hong Kong businessman David Tang, who founded fashion brand Shanghai Tang, battled liver cancer.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HONG KONG • Hong Kong businessman and socialite David Tang, known for founding the fashion brand Shanghai Tang, has died at 63, it was announced yesterday.

"RIP Sir David Tang, businessman, philanthropist, networker supreme. He will be sorely missed as a friend and FT columnist," tweeted Mr Lionel Barber, editor of Britain's Financial Times, for which Tang wrote the popular Agony Uncle column.

The media reported that Tang had battled liver cancer for some time.

He invited friends to the Dorchester Hotel in London, where he founded the China Tang restaurant, for a "farewell party" after doctors told him he had a month or two to live, The Times reported earlier this month.

In the invitation, he said the "best way to go would be to give a party where we can see each other at least one time more, rather than at a memorial service where I shall be dead as a dodo".

Tang, the father of two children and husband of British-born Lucy Tang, was born in Hong Kong and moved at the age of 13 to England, where he said he began boarding school without speaking a word of English.

The Cambridge-educated Tang set up his high-end fashion chain Shanghai Tang in 1994 and turned it into a global brand before luxury group Richemont took a controlling stake in it in 1998. He aimed to fuse East and West through his business ventures such as the members-only China Club in Hong Kong and China Tang in London.

Tang, who was awarded a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE), was the grandson of Tang Shiu Kin, a well-known philanthropist who founded the Kowloon Motor Bus company.

Friends with celebrities including Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and the late Princess Diana, Tang was a constant feature in society magazines, known for his lively parties and exotic holidays in places such as Bhutan and the Sahara desert.

He was known for his love of cigars. He founded the Pacific Cigar Company and was the sole distributor of all Cuban cigars in the Asia-Pacific, as well as an honorary consul of Cuba.

He said in an interview with the Financial Times in 2010, that he would like to be remembered by a Hilaire Belloc quote: "When I am dead, I hope it may be said: His sins were scarlet, but his books were read".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2017, with the headline 'An East-meets-West entrepreneur'. Print Edition | Subscribe