Following a long illness George Chao, a shipping legend in Hong Kong and president of Wah Kwong, died, aged 76, in hospital yesterday.
George Chao is one of four sons of T.Y. Chao, the founder of Wah Kwong, and father of Sabrina Chao, the current chairman of the company. Sabrina took over the running of the company in January 2013, and she is now also the chairman of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA).
The Chao family represents one of the most prominent of Hong Kong’s shipping dynasties.
George Chao and his brother Frank Chao joined Wah Kwong in the mid-1960s. After Frank Chao retired in 1999, George continued at the helm of the company, maintaining the company’s prominence in the Hong Kong shipping community as well as fulfilling a number of roles in important shipping bodies such as Bureau Veritas and the Asian Shipowners’ Forum insurance committee.
Always elegantly attired, Chao was considered to be lightening fast when he could sense a deal was on the table with one shipping correspondent describing him as having “the swagger of a riverboat gambler”.
Wah Kwong is a founding member of the HKSOA. As with most other founding members, the company’s heritage can be traced back to the mainland.
“He was a forceful character, one that could demolish walls if he saw the sense of a project or initiative,” said the HKSOA’s managing director, Arthur Bowring. “He was always incredibly supportive of the maritime industry in Hong Kong, and not at all afraid of promoting the importance and needs of our industry to our government. George’s passion for the industry and for Hong Kong will be sorely missed.”
Wah Kwong is currently on the hunt for a new ceo after Tim Huxley quit his post two months ago.