Sir David Tang, businessman, socialite and charity worker

Sir David Tang was well connected (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Sir David Tang was well connected (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Sir David Tang, businessman. Born: 2 August 1954, Hong Kong. Died: 30 August 2017, London, aged 63

Sir David Tang, the flamboyant and outspoken socialite and entrepreneur who founded the Shanghai Tang fashion brand, has died. He was 63.

Tang had fought a long battle with cancer and died on Tuesday night at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London with his wife Lucy at his bedside, said reports.

“David Tang was a remarkable man of many talents whose charm, erudition and wit were ever present,” said Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, for which he wrote a tongue-in-cheek advice column. “He will be sorely missed.”

The Hong Kong-born, 
British-educated Tang was a businessman who operated private clubs and restaurants and held exclusive distribution rights to Cuban cigars in Asia.

Tang was knighted in 2008 for his charitable work in both Britain and Hong Kong, the same honour his grandfather, businessman and philanthropist Tang Shiu-kin, received.

He was planning to throw a farewell party on 6 September at London’s luxury Dorchester hotel after learning he only had a few months left, according to Ewan Venters, chief executive of luxury department store Fortnum & Mason. “Personally, I think the world is a little duller for the loss of David and at such a relatively young age,” Venters said.

Tang was best known for starting the Shanghai Tang luxury brand in 1994, which pioneered the use of Chinese retro design themes as fashion motifs.

He later sold the brand to the Swiss luxury goods company Richemont.

He caused a stir by opening the members-only China Club in 1991 on the top floors of the old Bank of China building in Hong Kong’s financial district, expanding it to Beijing and Singapore. He opened the China Tang restaurant in the Dorchester.

Tang enjoyed a reputation as the best-connected person in Hong Kong and London. He mingled with a vast list of the rich and famous including the late Princess Diana, whom he once hosted at the China Club, and supermodel Kate Moss, with whom he was often photographed at parties.

Actor Russell Crowe called the businessman “witty, charming, intellectual, salacious” in a tweet on Wednesday.

In a 2007 interview, Tang was asked how he came to know so many notable people. “You mean how did they know me,” he shot back with a laugh.

He was sent to school in Britain at the age of 13 barely able to speak a word of English, but ended up graduating with a philosophy degree and an arch British accent.

Last year he weighed in with his frank views on Hong Kong politics, lashing into the city’s then-leader Leung Chun-ying over his leadership and fretting about the future of his home city under Communist rule.

Tang is survived by his wife, British-born Lady Lucy Tang, and two children from a previous marriage.