Hong Kong media mogul Sir Run Run Shaw (邵逸夫), who created an empire in Asia spanning movies to television, died yesterday at the age of 106, his company said.
Shaw died peacefully at his home in Hong Kong, surrounded by his family, Television Broadcasts Ltd (TVB) said in a statement.
One of Hong Kong movies’ defining figures, Shaw popularized Chinese kungfu films in the West and helped turn the former British colony into a “Hollywood East” over an 80-year career.
He set up Hong Kong’s biggest free-to-air television operator, TVB, in 1967 and served as its executive chairman until 2011, helping to shape the territory’s media culture.
“Thanks to his wise leadership, TVB has its status today after 46 years,” TVB executive chairman Norman Leung (梁乃鵬) said.
A passionate film-lover from an early age, legend has it that Shaw first cut his teeth in the business by distributing film reels on a bicycle to rural movie theaters in Singapore and Malaysia, giving poignancy to his name “Run Run.”
He started out helping his elder brothers Runje (醉翁), Runde (村人) and Runme (仁枚) set up a film studio in Shanghai in 1925. The brothers later moved into Hong Kong — making and distributing films to a chain of about 100 movie theaters spread across other Asian markets.
Shaw eventually split from his brothers to set up his own studio in the 1950s dubbed the dream factory, which ushered in a golden era of Hong Kong film-making.
Shaw is also remembered as a philanthropist, especially fondly in China, where he donated 4.5 billion yuan (US$744 million) over the years, mostly to education, according to Hong Kong media reports. Many school buildings in China are named after him.
The Shaw studio produced about a thousand titles, including melodramas, historical epics and kungfu classics like The One-armed Swordsman — helping to redefine genres and lure new filmgoers not only in Hong Kong and Asia, but in the West.
Shaw also invested in a number of coproductions, most notably the 1982 Ridley Scott classic Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford.
While Shaw was famed for his business acumen and nose for spotting and grooming new talent, he famously turned away a brash, young actor who came to see him in the 1960s, Bruce Lee (李小龍).
Shaw was born in 1907 in Ningbo, China. He was knighted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1977 and received the Grand Bauhinia Medal from Hong Kong’s government in 1998.
His first wife died in 1987. He is survived by his second wife, Mona Fong, two sons and two daughters.