Michael Ying, chairman of fashion retailer Esprit Holdings, was last night named the 2002 DHL/South China Morning Post Business Person of the Year. The award comes at a time of professional triumph and personal tragedy for Mr Ying, whose mother-in-law plunged to her death from her 12th floor Taipei apartment on Wednesday. Esprit, which has bucked the retail fashion trend of shrinking markets and returns, on Monday crowned nine consecutive years of record profits and turnover by joining the blue-chip Hang Seng Index. Mr Ying founded the Esprit Group in 1974, and over the past two decades has built the group into a major global brand. It operates 495 directly managed stores and 1,640 franchised stores in more than 40 countries. This year it gained global control of the Esprit trademark and completed its acquisition of cosmetics chain Red Earth. 'In Hong Kong and around the world, economic conditions remain difficult and companies are being tested by the challenge of finding ways to save costs on one hand, while at the same time expand, grow revenues and profits on the other,' said Lawrence Wong Chi-kwong, chief executive of the Hong Kong Jockey Club and chairman of the judging panel for the awards, now in their 13th year. DHL Worldwide Express' regional director for Greater China and Korea, Jerry Hsu, said Esprit's financial performance had been 'outstanding', with a 13.7 per cent rise in turnover in the year to June and a 61.2 per cent rise in net profit. Other awards went to Adolf Hsu Hung, managing director of New World First Holdings, who took the Executive Award; Donald Hay, president and chief executive of Hayco Manufacturing, who took the Owner-Operator Award; and Raju Harilela, group executive director of Harilela Strategic Group, who won the Young Entrepreneur Award. The International Award went to Hutchison Port Holdings and the Enterprise Award to Fujikon Industrial Holdings.