Business World

Thursday 26 April 2018

Businessman and socialite David Tang dies at 63

Hong Kong businessman David Tang gestures during an interview at his home in Hong Kong (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Hong Kong businessman David Tang gestures during an interview at his home in Hong Kong (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Georgina Stubbs

Prominent entrepreneur Sir David Tang, a friend of the royals and celebrities including Kate Moss and Russell Crowe, has died.

For the past few weeks, the 63-year-old founder of the Shanghai Tang fashion chain had been at the Royal Marsden Hospital, where he died on Tuesday evening.

Speaking to the Press Association, Ewan Venters, chief executive of Fortnum & Mason, said the "world is a little duller" after Sir David's death.

Mr Venters, 45, who had known him for a decade, said he was informed of the death by Sir David's wife, Lady Lucy Tang.

"He was one of life's unique people who had an extraordinary network of people from all walks of life. He was a very generous, kind-hearted, spirited individual," Mr Venters said.

"Personally, I think the world is a little duller for the loss of David and at such a relatively young age."

Businessman David Tang, speaks during an interview in his office in Hong Kong, January 1997. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo
Businessman David Tang, speaks during an interview in his office in Hong Kong, January 1997. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo
Hong Kong businessman David Tang gestures during an interview at his home in Hong Kong (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Flamboyant businessman David Tang, holding his trademark Cuban cigar, speaks during an interview in his office in Hong Kong January 27, 1997. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo
Businessman and socialite David Tang looks over his nostalgic, upmarket Chinese emporium "Shanghai Tang" in Hong Kong February 10, 1999. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo
Prominent entrepreneur Sir David Tang, a friend of the royals and celebrities including Kate Moss and Russell Crowe, who has died Credit: William Conran/PA Wire
Sir David Tang being Knighted for charitable services in the United Kingdom by Queen Elizabeth II Credit: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire
Princess Eugenie during a visit to Chelsea Football Club, Stamford Bridge, Fulham, with Sir David Tang, a friend of the royals and celebrities including Kate Moss and Russell Crowe, who has died Credit: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

Sir David announced earlier this month that he was throwing a farewell to life party at The Dorchester in London after receiving the news he had a couple of months to live.

Mr Venters said the memorial was due to take place in the ballroom at the luxury Mayfair hotel on September 6, but that "sadly he didn't quite make it".

He added: "David had been unwell on and off for a period, but actually his recent illness is a relatively short (one) - this has all happened in the last four weeks.

"There was an understanding amongst his friends, and hence why he organised a memorial, that by definition he was not going to come through. It was a matter of time."

Sir David was awarded a knighthood in 2008 by the Queen for his charitable services in the UK and British interests in Hong Kong, where he was born.

Mr Venters said the socialite first came to Britain "some 50 years ago" and arrived "without being able to speak a word of English".

"If there was ever a good example, especially in this current climate of Brexit, that positive immigration is a really good thing in Britain - David Tang embodied that," he said.

"Somebody that came to these shores without a word of English who became incredibly successful commercially and socially, and prospered in Britain and across the world.

"There is a good example of somebody that was welcomed to this country and who did a lot by this country and achieved a great deal and created prosperity and jobs, and industry."

After founding his high-end fashion chain - which he later sold - in the mid 1990s in Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore, Sir David also set up the China Clubs.

He later opened the China Tang restaurant at the Dorchester.

Sir David who read philosophy at university and later law - and taught at Peking University in 1983 - was described by Mr Venters as a "hugely intellectual man" who was "very clever and very well read".

Recalling one of his favourite memories of his friend, Mr Venters said: "When I went to visit him in hospital a couple of times in the last month, the chefs would prepare freshly made scotch eggs and a jar of piccalilli.

"He would be a fierce critic if the scotch eggs were in any way inferior. I always lived in fear that one day our scotch eggs wouldn't be quite up to it."

Hollywood actor Russell Crowe tweeted: "RIP dear friend Sir David Tang, the privilege was mine. Witty, charming, intellectual, salacious, hilarious, loving and funny as f***."

Financial Times editor Lionel Barber, for whom Sir David wrote a weekly column, said he would be "sorely missed".

In a statement Mr Barber added: "David Tang was a remarkable man of many talents whose charm, erudition and wit were ever present."

In an FT interview in 2010, when asked how he would like to be remembered, Sir David said: "I've always liked the Hilaire Belloc quote, 'When I am dead, I hope it may be said: His sins were scarlet, but his books were read'."

Press Association

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