Tsai Wan-lin, 80; Tycoon Was the Wealthiest Man in Taiwan

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Tsai Wan-lin, 80, Taiwan’s richest man, died Monday of heart disease at Cathay General Hospital in Taipei.

The businessman’s wealth was estimated at $4.6 billion, making him No. 94 on Forbes magazine’s 2004 list of the world’s richest people. His Lin Yuan Group included Cathay Life Insurance Co., which he co-founded with his brother in 1962; Cathay Construction Co.; and interests in banking and commercial real estate.

The sons of a poor rice farmer, Tsai and his late older brother Wan-chun began building the family fortune by selling fruits and vegetables as teenagers. They went on to buy a soy sauce factory and then went into real estate, construction, banking and insurance.

Reclusive and modest, Tsai once told his executives that “being a billionaire does not mean very much to me, and I would be pleased if I could make those who work for me millionaires.”


In the mid-1980s, a few years after the brothers divided their holdings in 1979, Tsai weathered a scandal caused by Wan-chun’s son, Chen-chou, who was imprisoned after diverting $177 million in loans from his savings and loan cooperative, causing its collapse. Tsai’s companies were not involved.