Wed, Sep 29, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Tsai led family to dominate nation's finance business

By Jackie Lin and Kevin Chen  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Tsai Wan-lin, who died Monday, was Taiwan's richest man and founder of Cathay Financial Holdings.

TAIPEI TIMES FILE PHOTO

Tsai Wan-lin (蔡萬霖), patriarch of the nation's wealthiest family and founder of the Lin Yuan Group (霖園集團), was born into a poor farming family in Chunan Township of Miaoli County in 1924.

Despite his family background, Tsai rose out of destitution to became one of the nation's legends -- one of those who have developed massive enterprises from scratch.

At the age of eight, Tsai followed his elder brother, Tsai Wan-chun (蔡萬春), to Taipei. After graduating from a vocational school in the capital, he set up a soybean sauce factory with his brother and the two sold sauce they had manufactured themselves.

His business career started to take off after he established the Cathay Life Insurance Corp (國泰人壽) in 1962, which has since become the nation's largest life insurer.

Cathay Life later become the flagship of Cathay Financial Holdings Co (國泰金控) and the group's main earnings contributor. At the end of June, Cathay Life accounted for 62 percent of Cathay Financial's consolidated assets of NT$2.5 trillion and 58 percent of the financial service company's capital of NT$146.7 billion, according to Taiwan Ratings Corp's (中華信評) statistics.

The family's financial group split in 1979 and in 1985, Tsai Wan-lin formed the Lin Yuan Group (霖園集團), comprised of Cathay Life, Cathay Real Estate Co (國泰建設), San Ching Engineering Co (三井工程) and a car company.

The group later evolved to include Symphox Information Co (神坊資訊), Cathay Century Insurance Co (國泰世紀產險), Cathay United Bank (國泰世華銀行), Cathay Securities Co (國泰證券), Cathay Securities Investment Trust Co (國泰投信) and Cathay General Hospital (國泰綜合醫院).

Earlier this year, Tsai and his family were estimated to hold assets worth US$4.6 billion, ranking 94th richest in the world, according to a Forbes report published in February. The nation's richest man had ranked 88th, 68th and 104th in the magazine's list in the previous three years.

Lin Yuan Group 霖園集團

* Cathay Financial Holdings Co 國泰金控

(NT$83.1 billion in capital; NT$4.74 trillion market value):

Cathay Life Insurance Corp 國泰人壽

Cathay United Bank 國泰世華銀行

Cathay Century Insurance Co 國泰世紀產險

Cathay Securities Co 國泰證券

*Cathay Real Estate Development 國泰建設

(NT$16.6 billion in capital; NT$30.6 million market value)

*San Ching Engineering Co 三井工程

(NT$115 million in capital)

*Cathay Securities Investment Trust Co 國泰投信

(NT$400 million in capital)

*Cathay General Hospital 國泰醫院

(NT$3.1 billion in capital)

*Symphox Information Co 神坊資訊


Tsai Wan-lin moved to keep the business in the family. When he was 66, he began to make arrangements for his succession, putting his four sons in the business.

Currently, his second son, Tsai Hong-tu (蔡宏圖), serves as chairman of Cathay Financial Holdings, while his eldest son, Tsai Cheng-ta (蔡政達), sits on the board of directors of Cathay Financial Holdings and Cathay Life -- less demanding positions due to his poor health.

His third son, Tsai Cheng-yu (蔡鎮宇), serves as deputy honorary chairman of Cathay Financial Holdings, and runs Cathay Real Estate and Cathay United Bank, while the youngest son, Tsai Cheng-chiu (蔡鎮球), is in charge of insurance businesses.

Tsai's success in amassing a fortune out of nothing came from his bold yet precise investments in real estate. Cathay Life owns 230 buildings nationwide, with many located in prosperous downtown areas such as Taipei Main Station. These buildings contribute billions of NT dollars in rent every year, according to local media reports.

Tsai Wan-lin's younger brother, meanwhile, Tsai Wan-tsai (蔡萬才), is the fifth richest man in the nation, ranking 231 on the Forbes list this year, with US$2.3 billion in assets. Tsai Wan-tsai heads Fubon Financial Holding Co (富邦金控), the fifth-biggest financial services company with NT$1.26 trillion in assets last year.

Relations between the brothers had been strained for most of last 20 years, however, due to a financial scandal involving their nephew, Tsai Chern-chou (蔡辰洲).

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