Mon, Oct 09, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Newsmaker: Daring Douglas Hsu's spectacular fall from grace

IN THE SPOTLIGHT It has not been a good year for the Far Eastern Group chairman as first the ETC dispute and then the Pacific Sogo scandal tarnished his reputation

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

It was a dark day for 64-year-old business tycoon Douglas Hsu (徐旭東) 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-jen (吳淑珍).

Along with several other businessmen, Hsu -- chairman of Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) 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 (太平洋崇光百貨) scandal.

Stressing that he was surprised by the verdict, the once daring and energetic magnate appeared extremely upset at a press conference called on Monday evening to reiterate his innocence.

"I know the moral principles of propriety, justice, integrity and shame (禮義廉恥); I know what the right things to do are" Hsu said, against a dark-purple background that conveyed a somber, uncomfortable feeling.

Wearing a gold color tie, Hsu admitted that all the colors in the press conference had been carefully arranged to avoid giving any political associations.

"After all, we deal with business, not political games," he said with a deep sigh, a reaction one would least expect from him since Hsu always gives an impression of strength and confidence.

As the eldest son of his father Hsu You-hsiang's (徐有庠) second wife, Hsu inherited the family business established by the elder Hsu, which has now expanded to cover a wide range of sectors, including textile, cement, retail, finance, petrochemicals, hotels, transport and even telecommunications.

Far Eastern Group's assets surpass NT$1.07 trillion (US$32.3 billion), with 45,000 employees. Eight of its 191 companies are listed firms. It raked in over NT$360 billion in sales last year.

Hsu is surprisingly attentive to details, even for such a huge conglomerate. It is said that even the dance steps models perform during press conferences and commercials must obtain his approval.

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and holding a master's degree in economics from Columbia University, Hsu is known as a workaholic, fueled by his passion for work. Even his voice is powerful and energetic, fully demonstrating his straightforward personality.

On the sideline of one press conference held early last year to launch the group's bonus point collection card, Hsu was bombarded by one reporter's questions about Pacific Sogo Department Store's disputes with Cathay United Bank (國泰世華銀行) over the issuance of the retailer's membership credit cards.

His smiling face suddenly changed. Hsu looked straight into the reporter's eyes, saying "There's no problem [with the bank]. Don't constantly talk about bad things, OK?" The venue was quiet for five seconds before another reporter popped out a question.

Hsu also well knows his appearance can bring the maximum effects for new products. Perhaps because of his long period of study in the US, he is fond of dressing up as different characters to boost media coverage.

In several promotional activities he was James Bond and an American football player; he put on a floral-patterned shirt for catwalk shows and acted as a chef cooking in front of cameras.

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 talking jubilantly like a singer 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.

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