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Thread: Property tycoon Nina Wang dies, aged 69

  1. #1
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    Default Property tycoon Nina Wang dies, aged 69

    Published April 5, 2007

    Property tycoon Nina Wang dies, aged 69


    NINA Wang, Asia's richest woman and one of Hong Kong's most high-profile property developers, has died at the age of 69 of an undisclosed illness.

    Her death comes just 18 months after she won a marathon battle to retain her late husband's estate in a saga that spanned nine years and saw Ms Wang square off against her father-in-law in a courtroom drama that hinged on fraud allegations.

    It is not clear who will inherit Ms Wang's property empire, the Chinachem chairwoman having died childless.

    Ms Wang, also known as 'little sweetie' and renowned for her signature ponytails which she kept until late last year, was one of Hong Kong's most colourful corporate characters.

    The Chinese press reported last year that she was suffering from cancer, but the rumours were never confirmed.

    She leaves behind one of Hong Kong's biggest property companies, of which there are scant financial details.

    Chinachem Group, set up by businessman Teddy Wang The-huei, was never taken public and to this day remains in private hands.

    Mr Wang disappeared in 1990, when he was Hong Kong's 15th richest man. He was snatched from his Mercedes outside the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the second time he had been kidnapped.

    In 1983, a US$11 million ransom was paid for his release after captors took him from his home and stuffed him in a fridge in a Hunghom flat.

    Although Ms Wang had long insisted the tycoon was still alive after the second kidnapping, his father, Wang Din-shin, took legal steps to have him declared dead in 1999.

    This triggered a bitter battle between Ms Wang and her husband's father which saw the businesswoman come to the brink of criminal proceedings after a court ruled that she had probably faked a will giving her the right to her husband's empire.

    This ruling was quashed in late 2005, with Ms Wang absolved of any wrongdoing. It was suspected that a group of rival property developers had been providing financial backing for the father-in-law to fight the court case against Ms Wang, but she did not press him for disclosure.

    Those who knew Ms Wang yesterday described her as a savvy businesswoman who amassed huge personal wealth during her time as Chinachem boss. Fortune magazine has estimated her assets to be in the region of US$4.2 billion.

    Peter Churchouse, a director of property fund Long Investment Management, said: 'We've never seen the balance sheet (of Chinachem), but you would have to think it's fairly robust.'

    Chinachem has more than 250 properties in Hong Kong, including skyscrapers such as Chinachem Exchange Square and Golden Plaza, along with a vast portfolio of offices, shopping centres, apartment blocks, cinemas and industrial sites.

    In 1997, the company paid HK$5.5 billion (S$1.1 billion) for a beachfront site at luxury residential area Repulse Bay. It was developed into a block of flats, but has remained empty ever since.

    'You must have very deep pockets to be able to do that,' Mr Churchouse said.

    Ms Wang's company declined to give details of her illness yesterday, saying only that funeral arrangements would be disclosed at a later date.

  2. #2
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    Default HK's richest woman, Nina Wang dies at 69

    April 4, 2007, 3.46 pm (Singapore time)

    HK's richest woman, Nina Wang dies at 69

    A whimsical statue of Nina Wang, known for her trademark girlish pigtails and colourful outfits. -- AP

    Nina Wang poses with a comic character 'Nina', that was sold for HK$3,500($450) during a charity event. -- REUTERS

    HONG KONG - Asia's richest woman, Nina Wang, has died of an unspecified illness after reports of her battling cancer, leaving unanswered questions over the estimated US$4.2 billion (S$6.5 billion) fortune she left behind.

    Known for her signature pigtails and nicknamed 'little sweetie' by the local media, Mrs Wang, 69, won a court case in 2005 for her late husband's business empire in a case filled with tales of adultery, kidnapping and murder.

    The Hong Kong heiress, whose maiden name was Kung, was reported by local newspapers to be suffering from cancer, but that was never officially confirmed.

    'Chinachem Group's chairwoman Nina Wang Kung passed away on Tuesday night and the details of the funeral will be announced later,' her personal assistant, Ringo Wong, said by telephone.

    He denied reports that she had been suffering from cancer. 'We were still making deals and investments not long ago,' he said, adding that undisclosed family members were by her side when she died.

    She left no children behind but has at least one brother and reportedly some other siblings.

    Mrs Wang's company, Hong Kong's largest private property developer, Chinachem Group, confirmed in a statement that she died on April 3.

    'With deep sorrow and sadness the Chinechem Group announceds the passing away of its chairlady Mrs Nina Kung Wang on 3 April 2007.'

    Court case against father-in-law

    In 2005 she won a legal battle launched by her 96-year-old father-in-law Wang Din Shin after a court overturned an earlier judgment that she had forged the will of her late husband, Teddy, shortly before he was kidnapped in 1990.

    She also later won a court order for Senior Wang to reveal who secretly funded his legal fight, a spat that remains unresolved.

    Teddy Wang was kidnapped in 1990 but although the family paid US$60 million in ransom, he was never seen again. His body was never found, and he was legally declared dead nine years later.

    The court victory handed Mrs Wang control of Chinachem, a company that she had since built into a multi-billion dollar real estate empire.

    Despite her fortune, her frugality was widely documented by Hong Kong media, who nicknamed her 'Little Sweetie' because her trademark pigtails resembled a Japanese comic character.

    She once admitted that her favourite meal was American fast food and was reputed to have kept her monthly expenditure below HK$3,000 (S$593).

    Mrs Wang and husband Teddy were together so thrifty they were known to buy cut-price tickets to shows.

    Teddy built up Chinachem, mostly on real estate deals, and she helped transform it after his disappearance into a US$3.5 billion empire that owns more than 200 office towers and 400 companies around the world.

    Forbes magazine last year estimated her personal fortune at US$4.2 billion, 154th in their ranking of the world's richest people. -- REUTERS, AFP

  3. #3
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    Default Nina Wang lost battle against cancer

    April 6, 2007

    Nina Wang lost battle against cancer

    Asia's richest woman dies within 2 years of winning her husband's wealth in court case

    By Vince Chong, Hong Kong Correspondent

    JUST one year after securing her missing husband's wealth, Asia's richest woman Nina Wang was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, the local Ming Pao Daily reported yesterday.

    She spent the next six months fighting the disease, the Chinese-language newspaper quoted sources as saying.

    Worth some US$4.2 billion (S$6.4 billion) and ranked 204th in the latest Forbes list of billionaires worldwide, the 69-year-old died on Tuesday. The news was announced a day later by her secretary.

    Neither the cause of Ms Wang's death nor the contents of her will was revealed in the announcement, sparking media speculation over who would inherit her massive wealth, which she gained full control of only in September 2005.

    Her hold on her husband's business was recognised only after an epic court battle that had enthralled Hong Kong for eight years with its suggestions of adultery, hints of murder, and tales of dysfunction in her family.

    Ms Wang's cancer was said to be at the advance third-to-fourth stage, a year after winning the case against her father-in-law over control of her husband's fortune.

    He had questioned the authenticity of her husband's will, in which he had bequeathed to her all his wealth.

    She had reportedly gone on a long trip to the United States and Singapore in search of a cure for her cancer, before returning to Hong Kong last December for chemotherapy.

    But by that time, the cancer had spread to her stomach and liver.

    Local media, citing different sources, speculated over who would inherit Ms Wang's assets.

    Ming Pao reported that her wealth had most likely been willed to two of her younger siblings: brother Kung Yan Sum and a sister who is also known as Kung Yan Sum, though their middle names are written in different Chinese characters.

    Another Chinese-language daily, Ta Kung Pao, said Ms Wang's 93-year-old mother could inherit the fortune, while sources told the English-language Standard that it could go to a sister and two unnamed employees who would now run Chinachem, the company she left behind.

    Ms Wang, whose maiden name is Kung Yu Sum, had also said in previous interviews that she might donate her assets to charity.

    Her secretary said on Tuesday that funeral arrangements would be announced soon.

    Born in September 1937, in Shanghai, Ms Wang was famed for her eccentric dress sense and personal quirks, which at one time included pig-tails and miniskirts. She also loved her nickname Siu Tim Tim, or Little Sweetie, after a pig-tailed Japanese cartoon character.

    However, Ms Wang would be best remembered for the sensational court cases following the 1990 kidnapping of her husband Teddy, who has never been seen since.

    She was so lonely after the incident that she kept a pet monkey as her bedmate, reported Ming Pao yesterday, quoting a maid who had worked for Ms Wang for 14 years.

    In her husband's absence, Ms Wang turned Chinachem into an even richer company that owns hundreds of buildings and companies.

    'We haven't heard much of Siu Tim Tim after she won the case, but now it seems like she had spent most of the time fighting her illness,' said Hong Kong housewife Annie Leung.

    'So poor thing...What is the use of earning so much money when one can't even live to enjoy it?'

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  4. #4
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    Default Lavish funeral for Asia's richest woman

    Published April 19, 2007

    Lavish funeral for Asia's richest woman

    Many of HK's elite bid farewell to tycoon Nina Wang

    (HONG KONG) Asia's richest woman Nina Wang was given an extravagant funeral send-off yesterday attended by many of Hong Kong's rich and powerful, amid feverish speculation over who will inherit her fortune.

    Shanghai-born Ms Wang, who was famously frugal, died of cancer aged 69 earlier this month with an estate estimated to be worth at least US$4.2 billion. She left no heirs, and some newspapers here have speculated she might have left all or a large part of her wealth to her personal fortune-teller.

    Ms Wang's funeral, organised by a committee of 45 businessmen and politicians including Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, was shrouded in secrecy. Reporters were barred from the venue in Hong Kong before the ceremony.

    Scores of people watched from across the street as the hearse carrying her body left for the crematorium, festooned with white orchids and with red roses arranged in heart shapes placed in the front and back.

    After a brief ceremony at the crematorium, Ms Wang's godson Anthony Cheung emerged in tears holding her portrait in his hands. He was accompanied by her other family members and surrounded by some 50 press photographers.

    Ms Wang's family had booked the entire first floor of the sprawling funeral home. Local press said her family had spent millions of Hong Kong dollars on flowers for the funeral ceremony, and a sea of floral wreaths accumulated outside and inside the funeral home. The hall was decorated in red and white, her favourite colours, although red is traditionally symbolic of celebrations like weddings.

    The whole front wall of the hall was covered in white orchids, white lilies, peonies and white chrysanthemums. A portrait of Ms Wang was placed in the middle of more than 1,000 red roses in the shape of a heart, above a similarly garlanded altar.

    A 10-foot memorial plaque lined with white chrysanthemums was placed on top of the portrait. Next to it, a television flickered with TV footage of the tycoon.

    Several small figurines of Ms Wang's favourite Japanese cartoon character 'Little Sweetie' - whose resemblance to her earned her the nickname - were placed before the portrait.

    Ms Wang's family, including her two sisters and one brother, bowed tearfully to every mourner entering the funeral home.

    Among those who gathered for the ceremony were casino magnate Stanley Ho and property tycoon Thomas Kwok, while Hong Kong's chief executive, Donald Tsang, and Mr Li paid their respects on Tuesday.

    Several dozen members of the public also gathered across the street to pay their respects.

    'After she spent all those years fighting for her husband's money, she's gone. Money means nothing if you don't live. It's so sad,' said restaurant waiter Wong Chun-fat, among the mourners who had gathered outside.

    A 55-year-old man surnamed Lee who travelled for an hour to pay his respects said: 'She's one person whom I admired most. She contributed so much to society and donated so much to charity. It's sad she's gone.' - AFP

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Property tycoon Nina Wang dies, aged 69

    April 29, 2007

    The Nina Wang enigma

    Hong Kongers are puzzled as to why the late tycoon would leave a multi-billion-dollar building vacant

    By Vince Chong, Hong Kong Correspondent

    129 REPULSE BAY ROAD, a 24-storey residential development in Hong Kong's prime waterfront district, has been left vacant for five years. Some people speculated that it was left empty because the tight-fisted Nina Wang, Asia's richest woman, did not want to pay a hefty government fee to convert the building into a hotel.

    HONG Kongers cannot help but shake their heads in perplexity when they pass by the fully-built, multi-billion-dollar apartment block standing vacant in a prime waterfront district.

    The intriguing landmark, an unforgettable sight when lit at night by the garish neon lights lining its facade, is owned by the late Nina Wang's Chinachem Group.

    Left unoccupied since it was built five years ago, it has been the subject of much speculation.

    One suspicion was that renowned architect Norman Foster was fired by the famously frugal Mrs Wang midway through the construction of the building - allegedly for spending too much money.

    But Mr Foster, architect of Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok airport and the HSBC building, does not claim to have designed the building, the Asia Sentinel website reported.

    The project is not mentioned on his firm's website nor was it included in the exhibition of his work at the British Museum. In official Hong Kong documents, the building is ascribed to Arthur C.S. Kwok and Associates.

    Another guess is that Chinachem has stubbornly chosen to leave it vacant rather than pay a fee to convert the building into a hotel.

    With the death of Mrs Wang, 69, from cancer earlier this month, the mystery surrounding 129 Repulse Bay Road has deepened.

    At first glance, it seemed a case of common business sense: A rich-enough developer hanging on to an empty property for years to sell it when real estate prices have risen high enough.

    But that was not true, as market watchers told The Sunday Times.

    For one thing, the wealthy Chinachem Group appears to have ignored the recent bullish trend in luxury home prices.

    'The group has not even tried to market the project even though the top-end market has surged in the past year,' said property agent Rita Lee. 'That is strange.'

    The land on which the building stands was bought for HK$5.55 billion (S$1.1 billion) at a government auction in 1997. But the building has by now reportedly incurred costs of more than HK$10 billion, including interest on loans and building expenses.

    A simple calculation - assuming that the building's 184 units averaging 1,000 sq ft are all sold at HK$30 million each - shows that the company is missing out on making HK$5.52 billion by leaving it vacant.

    Just why Mrs Wang chose to bear the loss seems to be anybody's guess.

    'Even the rumour of Norman Foster being fired is so typical of her, though the building was initially believed to be a no-expense-spared, trophy development for Chinachem,' said a source from the real estate market, referring to Mrs Wang's much-storied tight-fistedness.

    But on the other hand, the source added, it does not make sense that the penny-pinching Mrs Wang would have just let the building simply gather dust.

    It seems everything about Mrs Wang, from Chinachem to 129 Repulse Bay Road to her will - or perhaps wills - is an enigma.

    The hot coffee-shop talk in Hong Kong these days is about the possibility that her entire fortune - estimated by Forbes at US$4.2 billion (S$6.3 billion) - was left to business partner and personal fengshui adviser Tony Chan Chun Chuen.

    The fact that Chinachem is a privately-held company has made it hard for any outsider to know what really happened behind the scenes.

    The group was founded in 1960 with profits earned by Mrs Wang's father-in-law, Mr Wang Din Shin, from plastics trade, as well as other chemicals, which explains its name.

    Chinachem then struck out into buying large tracts of land on New Territories and outskirts of Kowloon. The value of these estates skyrocketed when they developed into new towns.

    The group's opaque ways became evident again in the marketing of a more recent project: the Nina and Teddy Towers, named after Mrs Wang and her husband. Mr Teddy Wang was kidnapped in 1990 and declared dead in 1999.

    A Chinachem spokesman, Mr K.K. Chan, told The Sunday Times that the project - a 42-floor Nina Tower for retail shops and offices, and an 80-floor Teddy Tower designated to be a hotel - should be completed this year.

    Though the entire project is located in Tsuen Wan, an old Kowloon neighbourhood, it is seen as a grade A development.

    According to an analyst with a major real estate consultancy, Chinachem made a smaller profit by trying to market the property themselves, 'probably also to save money'.

    'They would have had a better chance attracting big multinational clients if they let a big firm like ours handle leasing deals,' said the analyst, who declined to be named.

    Unexplained decisions like these linger on as a massive legal battle shapes up between Mr Chan and Mrs Wang's siblings over her wealth. The puzzle behind the vacant Repulse Bay building almost seems tame by comparison.

    Mrs Wang has died, but her mystery certainly lives on.

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