A Sweet and Sour Legacy
If you were talking about kidnapping, ransom, murder, forged wills, and the richest woman in Hong Kong, you would be talking about Nina Wang. Richer than the Queen of England and more colorful than Madonna, this eccentric billionaire could be seen around town wearing plaid miniskirts and pigtails dyed electric blue. No swank sushi bar for this parsimonious celebrity. She lived on a salary of $400 a month and was a regular at McDonald’s. She was so popular among the masses that she was dubbed “Little Sweetie” for her likeness to a much-loved Japanese cartoon character.
Born as Kung Yu Sum in 1937, she grew up in Shanghai with her childhood friend Teddy Wang. Teddy’s father, Wang Din-Shin, owned a paint and chemical company, and after Teddy’s family fled Shanghai during the revolution and moved to Hong Kong, Teddy sent for her. Although Teddy Wang’s family never liked Nina, because supposedly she was stubborn and could not cook, the two nevertheless married in 1955. Nina was only 18 years young. They worked tirelessly together, never had children, and built the chemical and pharmaceutical company, Chinachem, into one of the largest private property developers in all of Hong Kong. As is so often the case, part of their fortune was attributable to a little luck; they purchased properties once deemed worthless, held them for many years and after a population explosion in the heart of the city, their “worthless” properties once developed became the ...