Meet Mr. Hsu: Politically Connected Apparel Magnate, Fraud Indictee, Billionaire
I wanted to vet this a little more thoroughly before posting on it, but I've run into a bit of a brick wall, so I thought I'd throw it out into blogworld to see what the army can dig up.
In a continuing effort to piece together the Norman Hsu backstory (where he came from, where he got his money prior to the recent alleged investment scams, how he learned to ply the phony apparel trade, etc.), I've come across a man who bears an uncanny circumstantial resemblance to Mr. Hsu.
Meet Douglas Hsu, Chinese apparel magnate, educated in the U.S. (Columbia and my alma mater, Notre Dame), and recently indicted for forgery and breach of trust in a case that involved the First Lady of Taiwan.
Hsu is also a billionaire.
Ranked #31 on Forbes' Greater China's Rich List, Douglas Hsu is worth an estimated $1.4 billion, his primary asset being his equity in Far Eastern Group, the Chinese apparel company this first-born son inherited from his father Yu-Ziang Hsu upon his death in 2000. Since then, Hsu has transformed Far Eastern into a multi-billion dollar conglomerate with interests in energy, telecom, construction, hospitality, financial services, and of course, apparel. Hsu's profile in Business Week offers additional board affiliations and other resume details.
Douglas and at least four other Hsus with Anglican names serve in senior management or on the board of directors of Far Eastern Textile Group, namely Raymond, Peter, Tonia, and Alice. Douglas, Peter, and Tonia were all educated in New York or California (Norman's primary stomping grounds).
At 64, Douglas Hsu is eight years older than Norman Hsu. What I'm positing here is the possibility that Douglas, as Y.Z. Hsu's eldest son, may be Norman Hsu's brother or half-brother (and that the other Hsus running Far Eastern Group may be other close relatives). You can decide for yourself whether one looks sufficiently like the other for this to be feasible. I have no particular facial comparison skills, but one shared feature that jumps out is the notably sunken eye sockets. Yu-Ziang Hsu wore thick-rimmed glasses and lived his primary picture-taking years in an era of fuzzier photography, so the paternal comparison doesn't offer much insight.
Norman Hsu disappeared in 1992, following his felony swindling conviction in San Mateo. The Journal has him starting a couple of thinly-documented companies in Hong Kong that year, but for the most part, this chapter in Hsu's life is fairly opaque. Hsu's lawyer contends he returned to the U.S. in 1996, making a series of successful investments in California, which equipped him with the financial wherewithal to begin making his generous political contributions. If my speculation about Hsu being Ysu-Ziang Hsu's son (albeit perhaps one subjugated by birth order and possibly renounced, given his criminal ways) is correct, then Norman could've also seen a financial windfall in 2000, when Yu-Ziang's bequest made at least one other Hsu a very wealthy man and rendered him a powerful apparel baron.
While Norman Hsu's lawyer says he was back in California by 1996, his timeline doesn't come back into independently confirmable focus until 2001 - a year after Yu-Ziang Hsu's death - when Norman began doing deals with New York investor and Woodstock co-founder Joel Rosenman (a business relationship at the center of Hsu's current legal troubles). It was two years later, in 2003, that Hsu launched his career as an ATM for the Democratic party. Hsu would continue on this path unabated until August 2007, when his fugitive status and his orchestration of an apparent ring of illegal straw donors came to light.
Over this same roughly 6-year period, Douglas Hsu was building an empire. By 2006, Far Eastern Group included 191 companies, eight of which were publicly traded. It employed 45,000 people, recorded more than $10 billion in annual revenues, and held assets valued at more than $32 billion. Much like Norman Hsu, however, Douglas ran into a spot of trouble involving alleged fraud, the apparel trade, and political intrigue. From a Google-translated story in the Taipei Times last October:
It was a dark day for 64-year-old business tycoon Douglas Hsu last Monday when he was charged by the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office in a department store's management takeover scandal that involved First Lady Wu Shu-chen.
Along with several other businessmen, Hsu -- chairman of Far Eastern Group and a man who is proud of and known for his exquisitely forged ties with political heavyweights -- was indicted for two years and six months for forgery and breach of trust over the Pacific Sogo Department Store scandal.
Douglas Hsu is also renowned as a charismatic showman, who put his magnetism and high-level political connections to good use in his business career.
At press briefings, unlike many other bosses who stand still and give speeches in a flat voice, Hsu grabs the microphone, moving around on the stage like a singer talking jubilantly whipping up the crowd. Reporters are entertained by his "performances." "A shrewd businessman "is the comment most frequently used to describe him. This includes his efforts to build up relations in political circles.
After Far Eastern Group took over the management of Pacific Sogo early in 2003, Hsu invited current Presidential Office Secretary-General Mark Chen, former presidential office deputy secretary-general Chen Che-nan and the first family's former doctor Huang Fang-yen, who all maintain close ties with President Chen Shui-bian, for a banquet.
He then announced in front of them the appointment of Chung Chin, former Cabinet spokeswoman, as the department store's first chairwoman. Giving the impression that the government was on his side, at Christmas the same year, Wu Hsu invited to switch on the Christmas tree lights at the Far Eastern Plaza Hotel.
As far as I can tell, Douglas Hsu has not yet received any prison sentence, but his Forbes profile indicates he may face jail time in connection with his indictment for forgery and breach of trust.
While there are several interesting circumstantial parallels between Norman and Douglas Hsu (including their names, their line of business, their leverage of political connections as business assets, their fraud allegations, their approximate age, their American educations, and a vague similarity of facial features), tying them together definitively as siblings is where I've hit the wall.
I've discussed this with a few people, including one of Hsu's Orange County investors and one of the Journal reporters who broke the Hsu story, and details about the man's family (not including his ex-wife and son) appear to be few and far between. This is where you come in, should you be interested in helping to ferret out the missing pieces. The links above ought to be decent starting points. If you come upon anything that seems to shed light on Hsu's family background, his time overseas between 1992 and 2000, or anything that connects him to Douglas (or Peter, Raymond, Tonia, or Alice) Hsu, give me a shout.
Housekeeping note: For easier reference of previous Hsu coverage, I've created a dedicated Norman Hsu category, rather than continuing to paste the increasingly ungainly list of links to prior posts.
Update: Many thanks for the flurry of tips that have already came in. Among them (courtesy of Kurt) was this online photo album from the Asia Society's 2004 annual dinner, honoring Douglas Hsu and featuring Hassan Nemazzee (Iranian-American banker and failed nominee as Ambassador to Argentina under Bill Clinton) and Richard Holbrooke (Bill Clinton's Assistant Secretary of State, former U.N. Ambassador, current foreign policy adviser to Hillary's Presidential campaign, and rumored presumptive Secretary of State under a Hillary White House).
Handcrafted by Flip on October 4, 2007 |
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