Taiwanese cement scion Leslie Koo dies in fall

Thrifty son of top negotiator with mainland Koo Chen-fu had boosted firm’s fortunes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 12:05am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 12:05am

Leslie Koo Cheng-yun, the son of Taiwan’s late top negotiator with the mainland, Koo Chen-fu, died on Monday morning after stumbling down a flight of stairs at a plush hotel in Taipei on Saturday night. He was 62.

The cement tycoon, listed among the island’s 50 richest people by Forbes Magazine last year, had been attending a wedding banquet at the Formosa Regent Hotel.

Taiwan Cement Corp group, of which Leslie Koo was chairman, confirmed his death after doctors announced the news.

“We are shocked … to announce that Chairman Koo passed away this morning after falling from a staircase at the Formosa Regent Hotel which resulted in cerebral haemorrhage,” the group said. The board of directors had chosen Chang An-ping to take on Koo’s role for the time being, it added.

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Koo was taken to Mackay Memorial Hospital for emergency treatment after his fall. His family later transferred him to another hospital, where a team of neurosurgeons was unable to save him, Taiwanese media reported.

A friend said Koo was not drunk when he lost his step as he was discussing business with others before he left the banquet. He leaves a wife, son and daughter.

Koo was reported to have helped save the business, which for a time was in debt while his father was ill with cancer from the early 2000s until 2005.

Leslie Koo’s decision to invest in mainland cement businesses in 2003 was at first criticised by some veteran board members, but helped eventually the group more than double its business volume to NT$129 billion (HK$32 billion) in just 13 years, making Taiwan Cement the 12th biggest cement company in the world.

With an estimated net worth of US$1.2 billion, Leslie Koo flew economy class and liked dining at night markets.

Koo Chen-fu was highly respected for his representation of Taiwan in negotiating with the mainland from 1992 to 1998. His talks with his mainland counterpart Wang Daohan in Singapore in 1993 set the stage for cross-strait ties from 2008 when Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang became president with a policy of engaging Beijing.