Wealthy solicitor Lo Tak-shing, who died yesterday, set out in the mid-1980s to become the first chief executive of post-British Hong Kong. It was a position he thought he deserved. It was one he failed to achieve. The man who sometimes described himself as 'a member of one of Hong Kong's most aristocratic families' was spurned by the public and abandoned by political forces he expected to support him. Lo Tak-shing's claim to spring from a family that felt it had the right to rule was understandable in the context of his times. His personal and professional background placed him for many years at the core of the city's rich and powerful. He failed to parley that position of influence into becoming the first chief executive. After losing badly in the 1996 race to head Hong Kong after the handover, Lo faded from the public scene in which he had shone for years. From 1997, he was largely absent. Lo's prominence was based on membership of one of the most famous families of Hong Kong. His father, Sir Man-kam Lo, served as an executive councillor. An uncle who was widely popular in sporting and legal circles, Lo Man-wai, sat on Legco from 1950 to 1959. The family were related to the vast and powerful Hotung clan. Like a million other people, the Lo family left Hong Kong in early 1942 after the Japanese military government's grip on daily life began to tighten. Lo Tak-shing, then aged seven, went to Lingnan Primary School in Guangzhou and later, when the family returned to Hong Kong after the war, to Lingnan College. He studied at Taunton University in Somerset, England, and then at Wadham College, Oxford. Coming home, he joined the family legal firm of Lo and Lo, where his father was senior partner. By 1974, Lo Tak-shing was sufficiently mature to be appointed to the Legislative Council, a body on which his family had served over the decades. Six years later, governor Sir Murray MacLehose named him to the Executive Council. He sat on both bodies until February 12, 1985. Then, in an intemperate move that reflected his often-short temper and flamboyant personality, he publicly quit both bodies with a blistering attack on Britain. What some saw as anger was perceived by others as a carefully calculated political ploy. Many observers saw the dual resignation as Lo's first carefully orchestrated move to grasp the leadership mantle 12 years later when Hong Kong would return to Chinese sovereignty. Others believed it was the burly lawyer's typical blunt speaking. Saying he was 'throwing in the towel with disgust', Lo called on Hong Kong people to spend less time on politics and concentrate more on business, which was helpful to China. Moves towards a more representative government were neither necessary nor viable, he said, statements which even then were against the rising tide of public opinion. It was about that time that Lo began a long-term strategic move to position himself for his move to lead Hong Kong after the handover. He carefully allied himself with nascent pro-Beijing and pro-business groupings. He started to be critical of the Hong Kong administration he had served so long, on everything from the Public Service Commission to the Transport Advisory Board to the Hong Kong Playground Association. Lo founded an unabashedly pro-China weekly news magazine, Window, in 1992. But with the hiring of some top journalists who knew Hong Kong and its problems, the publication built up a solid reputation, although it constantly lost money. When his bid for chief executive failed, Lo promptly folded Window. One of the planks of his campaign to become chief executive was a widely criticised promise to raise top civil service salaries to the levels of senior executives of major companies. He cited IBM as an example. A vice-chairman of the Basic Law consultative committee, as 1997 approached, he began nurturing closer links with Beijing. He pursued his bid for the position with passion. But many of his efforts seemed to backfire. In December 1995, Lo shocked the community when it was revealed that he was granted a Chinese passport by the Guangdong Public Security Bureau, a move the Foreign Ministry said was a response to an application filed several years ago. Lo, then a member of the now defunct preliminary working committee, held a British passport. Window, in which Lo dictated style and content, branded the legislature on which he had served so long as 'an electoral travesty put in place by the British administration'. This and other statements and incidents, combined with what was widely perceived to be Lo's arrogance and disregard for public opinion, led to the formation of the Concern Group on Lo Tak-shing becoming the chief executive. For a key period when there was behind-the-scenes manoeuvring in the contest for chief executive, this group handed in petitions and questions about Lo's intentions and capabilities. A vice-director of the now disbanded Basic Law consultative committee, Mr Lo then suggested that a two-chamber system be instituted for the post-1997 lawmaking body for additional constraints on the people's representatives in the lower house. The system, advocated shortly after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, stipulated that the passage of motions would require a majority vote of each of the two groups of members sitting in two chambers: members returned by functional constituencies and those returned by geographical constituencies through the Election Committee and by direct elections. Despite the critical reception from the community, the model was later on adopted in the Basic Law to determine the way motions were vetted. In the memoir of the former Xinhua director Xu Jiatun , the late shipping magnate Sir Yue-kong Pao was quoted as lamenting: 'Lo Tak-shing has never been a popular figure in the community, how come the proposal was put forward by him?' Such was the mistrust and concern about Lo's mercurial temperament and his dominating personality, not to mention his erratic political style, that many senior civil servants let it be widely but quietly known that if he gained acceptance to lead Hong Kong after July 1, 1997, they would resign. In October, 1996, Lo abandoned his bid. Speaking after weeks of silence as his popularity in opinion polls kept plummeting, he finally admitted the obvious; he had no hope of beating frontrunner Tung Chee-hwa. He also disbanded the New Hong Kong Alliance, a political movement set up a decade earlier mainly to boost his stature. To many who knew him well over the year, Lo was a vastly talented man with a quick intellect but a flawed personality. 'He thought he was always right,' said one lawyer who had been long associated with him. 'He could be intolerably rude and short tempered with staff and those whom he thought were his social inferiors who upset him. 'But on the other hand, he could be hugely jovial company.' Like his uncle Lo Man-wai, who was still playing tennis into his eighth decade, Lo Tak-shing was an enthusiastic and competitive tennis player; there was a full-size court at one of the family houses near Stanley. He was also a fiercely aggressive bridge player, sufficiently skilled to win the Far East championship in 1975. Lo is survived by his wife, Wendy, and children Deidre, Bevin, James and Jane.