Tang Shing-bor, a property tycoon whose sprawling portfolio of retail assets brought him fame as the “Shop King” of Hong Kong, has died at age 88.
According to a statement released by his family, Tang died peacefully in Hong Kong last Friday with relatives by his side.
“The family will continue to follow the legacy of Mr Tang Shing-bor and work together to develop the family business and make positive contributions to the country and society,” a representative said in the statement.
The Tang family’s real estate portfolio was valued at about HK$75 billion ($9.7 billion) last year, Bloomberg reported. Tang Shing-bor amassed the fortune by snapping up decrepit industrial properties and transforming them into commercial assets in gentrifying areas of Hong Kong. But a detour into hotels, followed by the retail downturn amid civil unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic, had put the mogul on the back foot in his final months.
Born to a family of modest means, Tang worked as a neon sign maker and billboard technician during the 1960s. In 1970 he opened a dim sum restaurant that kick-started the retail empire he would assemble over the ensuing decades.
By 1997 he had collected more than 200 shops worth HK$7.3 billion, but the Asian financial crisis that year torpedoed a planned IPO.
In later life Tang began to lay succession plans, grooming his youngest son, Stan Tang, to take over the family business. The son has proved an empire builder in his own right by establishing Stan Group, which owns residential, commercial and industrial assets throughout Hong Kong, mostly in Kowloon and the New Territories.
Stan Group ventured into hotels, restaurants and flexible offices, setting up co-working space The Wave in Kwun Tong in 2016 (later sold to Bank of China Hong Kong Asset Management) and buying the Hotel Bonaparte in Wan Chai for HK$450 million in 2017. The group’s hospitality subsidiary, Tang’s Living, owns hotels across the city.
The Tang family pushed further into hospitality with the purchase of a 14-storey hotel at 80 Kimberly Road in Tsim Sha Tsui for HK$330 million and the 30-storey Inn Hotel Hong Kong in Yau Ma Tei for HK$1.1 billion, both in 2018. But the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020 threw the sector’s outlook into doubt, and a plan to buy the H1 Hotel in Mong Kok for HK$328 million was scrapped.
Without guests to pay for hotel rooms in his son’s hostelries, the elder Tang last year began putting up for sale an estimated HK$6.5 billion in properties, including assets acquired less than a year earlier.
The Shop King then hit a patch of legal trouble last August after reportedly failing to pay more than HK$12 million in rent to the owners of a building at 182 Nathan Road. The landlords filed a lawsuit against Win Time Sing Technology Shenzhen, a mainland company owned by Tang, after the firm allegedly stopped paying rent in October 2019.
In January of this year, Tang and family were hit with another lawsuit seeking an outstanding debt of HK$265 million owed to an elderly care operator in which they held a stake.
Just last week, JLL announced that it had been engaged to market a set of senior living properties in Kowloon owned by Tang, with the serviced residences valued at HK$2.5 billion.
Despite the recent travails, Tang Shing-bor remained one of Asia’s wealthiest men, ranking 19th in the Forbes list of Hong Kong’s richest people in 2021 and 608th globally.