In November 2002, as Computer Associates International Inc.
(whose software is used by companies to run mainframe computers
and manage networks) fights off challenges on legal and financial
fronts, Charles Wang stepped down as chairman with Sanjay Kumar
taking his place. This is 26 years after co-founding a company
that became virtually synonymous with his hard-driving persona
to spend more time with his charitable and personal business
Wang, though sufficiently software savvy, is primarily known as an empire builder who has engineered Computer Associates' takeover of more than 50 software makers. Despite being known as an undiplomatic and combative competitor, he has made CA a global company with 16,000 employees and one of the most prominent public companies based on Long Island.
Computer Associates is fifth in the world among all software makers and second only (at $3.5 billion in annual sales) to Microsoft among software makers that are not tied to a single computer hardware manufacturer.
He was born in Shanghai, China in 1944 and moved to the United States with his family in 1952 after his father, a judge, fled Shanghai in the wake of the communist revolution. Wang grew up in Queens Village, where neighbors once took up a petition to keep his Chinese family from moving in, went to Brooklyn Technical High School and then Queens College. He put more energy into after-school jobs at a grocery store and the post office than homework.
Wang's father, Kenneth, went to night school so he could practice law again and became a St. John's Law School professor, while his mother, Mary, took a library clerk job and later became branch manager. They settled in Queens, their former ornate home in the French Quarter of Shanghai replaced by a walk-up in
The pragmatic native of Shanghai, China, who had a knack for math and physics, decided computer programmer was the job that was in greatest demand and that's what he would become.
Upon graduating from Queens College, Wang became a programmer trainee at a Columbia University research lab, where Russell Artzt became his friend.
In 1976, they formed Computer Associates, which began marketing software in the United States for a Swiss company of the same name that was given a 50-percent stake in the new CA in New York City.
Wang, 51, began acquiring companies shortly after he bought CA in 1976, with the money he'd made selling the tiny company's mainframe data-management program. In the company's early days, Wang, who was married and father of a daughter, had to borrow $400 on his credit card to make his payroll.
This was the start of a brilliant but turbulent and often controversial career at Computer Associates and fended off fierce attacks on many of the company's practices and tactics regarding excessive executive pay, prickly customer relations, questionable accounting and weak corporate governance. In 2002, its accounting was being investigated by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The company went public in 1981. As a result, $12 million was raised that launched a stock that was used for many acquisitions through the years.
Mr. Wang is personally philanthropic and active in charitable causes such as The Smile Train, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and many other philanthropic activities focused on children.
Wang and Kumar accumulated enough wealth by 2000 that they were able to buy the New York Islanders hockey team for 175 million dollars. As of the 2002 proxy, Wang personally and through stock held by his wife and in trust for his children, as well as those in a charitable foundation, owned 28.44 million shares in CA, currently worth $437 million. His wife, Nancy Li, is head of a CA subsidiary. .
Wang's local real estate companies include Island Properties LLC, which owns 70 properties, mostly in downtown Oyster Bay, and Plainview Properties LLC, which owns 144 acres of former Nassau County land and buildings in Plainview.
Wang is divorced from his first wife. He and his second wife have a 3-year-old daughter and live in a mansion in Cove Neck.
ASIAN AMERICAN CENTER
The center's (officially known as the Charles B. Wang
Center) opening in the Fall of 2002 coincides with the start
of Stony Brook’s new academic department of Asian and Asian-American
studies, with courses ranging from Indian music to Chinatowns
of the world. It is the first university department, where
nearly a third of the students are of Asian descent, that
combines Far Eastern and Asian American studies.
The center houses a theater, teleconferencing and lecture halls, galleries, a chapel, multiuse space and pools, gardens, atriums and courtyards for casual gatherings. The architect, Pao-Hwa Tuan - a distant Wang in-law - designed it for live performances, films, lectures, seminars, exhibits and other activities. The complex will have a food court offering Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean and Thai cuisine.
The center was nearly three years behind schedule because Charles Wang’s original gift for $25 million “hallway renovation” eventually blossomed into a $55+ million 120,000 feet complex.
Mr. Wang's gift, through his foundation, is the largest private donation to the state university system, part of a welcome trend in these times of tightening government aid.
Ironically, the center has stirred a bit of controversy because some students have grumbled that other groups with rich cultures lack a special center because they do not have a wealthy benefactor.
OBJECT OF RACISM
Despite his enormous success and wealth, Charles Wang had
tasted the power of racial
In 1998 Wang had initiated a $9 billion hostile tender offer for the shares of Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). The Washington Post weighed in on the side of CSC's management by alluding to CA's "ties to foreigners".
It was a pointed reference to Wang's origin and CA's clients in China. The suggestion was that becoming linked with CA would jeopardize CSC's contracts with U.S. government agencies.
After much agonizing, Wang dropped the tender offer. The episode remained in his mind as his first encounter with overt racial discrimination in the business world. That his ethnicity might negatively influence the government's pending investigation would certainly have entered his mind.
Key dates in the career of Charles Wang
- 1944 - born in Shanghai
- 1952 - Family fled to the United States, settled in Queens
- 1976 - Founded Computer Associates International
- 1987 - Acquires UCCEL Corp., valued at $800 million
- 1991 - Moves company to current headquarters in Islandia.
- 1995 - CA and Microsoft agree to jointly market its flagship product, CA Unicenter with Windows NT. CA acquires Lengent Corp., bringing total acquisitions to more than 50.
- 1996 - made the largest gift ever to the State University of New York system, agreeing to build a major Asian-American culture center at SUNY Stony Brook to house a conference center, an art gallery and gardens. The facility is worth more than $40 million and opened on October 22, 2002.
- March 1998 - CA drops bid for Computer Sciences Corp., a controversial takeover fight that had depressed stock.
- May 1998 - Along with co-founder Russell Artzt and Sanjay Kumar, receives stocks award totaling $1.1 billion in stock, of which $200 million was returned
- 2000 - Buys New York Islanders hockey team with Sanjay Kumar
- 2000 - Names Kumar as CA chief executive
- 2001 - Wang was among the first five people inducted last year into LISTnet's Hall of Fame. The others were Leroy Grumman, founder of Grumman Corp; Elmer Sperry, founder of Sperry Corp; James D. Watson, 1962 Nobel Prize winner and Jerome Swartz, (Symbol Technologies’ founder).
- 2001 - CA prevails in proxy fight by Texas investor Sam Wyly
- February 2002 - SEC and the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn launch investigation of CA accounting practices, including circumstances surrounding stock award
- July 2002 - CA pays Wyly $10 million to drop a second proxy fight.
- November 2002 - CA's Founder Steps Down