Long Island businessman, philanthropist Charles Wang dies at 74

Long Island businessman, philanthropist Charles Wang dies at 74
Charles Wang of the New York Islanders poses for a portrait on Sept. 15, 2003 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Getty Images)

Charles Wang, a Long Island icon in business and philanthropy who helped keep the Islanders on the Island, died on Sunday. He was 74.

Wang died in Oyster Bay from lung cancer while surrounded by his family, his attorney John McEntee said in an emailed statement to Newsday.

Wang is best known for his ownership of the Islanders hockey team and philanthropy ranging from a $52 million donation to create the Charles B. Wang cultural center at Stony Brook University to providing free cleft palate surgeries to children around the world.

“Charles Wang was a great man,” Lou Lamoriello, the general manager and president of the Islanders, said in a statement. “He always spoke of his love for the Long Island community and the passionate fan base. Long Island would not have a team if it were not for Charles.”

Wang also sought to spearhead redevelopment of Nassau Coliseum starting in 2004, pitching a $3.74 billion project for the 77-acre property which would’ve included a revamp of the Coliseum, building a minor league baseball park and more than 2,000 units of residential development.

Voters ultimately rejected a proposal to partly fund the rebuilding of the arena through a $400 million bond in 2011. Wang then announced the Islanders would move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

But, according to Newsday, Wang embarked on “behind-the-scenes efforts lobbying all parties about the potential” of the Belmont Park area to create a new arena for the Long Islanders – despite the move to Brooklyn in 2015.

“The arena at Belmont Park will be just one of his many legacies left to the team and to Long Island,” Jon Ledecky, a co-owner of the Islanders, said in a statement. “His unique personality, his wonderful sense of humor and his extraordinary wisdom will be greatly missed.”

Wang was born in Shanghai, China, on Aug. 19, 1944. His family moved to Queens, New York, when he was 8 years old.

Wang co-founded the software technology company Computer Associates International, now known as CA Technologies, in 1976 with Russell Artzt. It has become one of the largest software corporations in the world, reporting more than $4.2 billion in revenue in fiscal 2018.

Wang and his business partner Sanjay Kumar bought the Islanders in 2000 for more than $187 million with hopes of revitalizing the team. After purchasing Kumar’s stake in 2004, he became the sole owner of the team.

This lasted until 2016, when a deal transferred majority ownership to Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin. Wang still held a minority stake.

This rise wasn’t without scandal, however, with the company – and Wang – being the subject of numerous class-action lawsuits. Ultimately Sanjay Kumar, once the company’s chief executive, pleaded guilty to security fraud in a $2.2 billion accounting scheme.

Wang, while named in court filings as being involved, according to CNN, never faced charges.

County Executive Laura Curran described Wang as a man who was dedicated to Long Island.

“Charles was an incredible and influential figure for Long Island, with both the extraordinary growth of Computer Associates and his purchase of the Islanders,” Curran said. “His attempts to keep the Islanders on Long Island will long be remembered.”

“As we move forward with the development of the Nassau Hub, we will remember his commitment to the site and the need to have a vision for opportunity and economic growth,” Curran added.

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