THN: Charles Wang - Genie oder Verrückter?

Lesedauer: ca. 4 Minuten

“As Charles has told me many times in

his own inimitable fashion, ‘I’m too old and too rich to give a blank

what other people think of me.’ ”  

Former Islanders GM Mike Milbury

Charles Wang - Genius or madman?

It was a couple of days before the Olympic break and the entire eastern

seaboard had been hit by the mother of all snowstorms. But that wasn’t

near enough to keep Dean Lombardi from his task at hand.

Lombardi arrived at the airport in San Francisco only to find out

almost every flight going anywhere near New York had been canceled. The

closest he could get was Rochester, so he jumped on a flight, then

rented a car and drove through the blinding snow to Cooperstown, where

he stopped for the night.

He woke the next morning and drove all day through the blizzard to get

to Long Island. As he was making his way through the city, Lombardi

called Milbury to update him on his progress. Milbury assumed Lombardi

wouldn’t be coming and Lombardi responded with: “Like hell I’m not.”

That’s how badly Lombardi wanted the job of running the New York

Islanders and that’s how painfully close the Islanders came to getting

it right. Meanwhile, Islanders owner Charles B. Wang continued to

waffle on the prospect of hiring Lombardi, all the while worried he was

too conventional and too ingrained in the hockey establishment.

Lombardi later interviewed with the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings

and by the time Wang called him for a third interview, Lombardi had

already made up his mind to take the Kings job.

And we all know how things have turned out since then. Wang first hired

Ted Nolan to coach, despite the fact Nolan hadn’t coached in the league

in nine years. He then allowed Nolan to hire two assistants who have

zero NHL experience. Wang hired Neil Smith as GM, fired him 40 days

later and replaced him with the backup goalie. Then, not satisfied

after signing career underachiever Alexei Yashin to a disastrous

10-year deal worth $87.5 million, Wang sent shock waves through the

hockey world by giving goalie Rick DiPietro a 15-year deal worth $67.5

million that had NHL executives howling with a mixture of laughter and


When told THN was doing a profile on Wang, one NHL executive responded

by saying: “Have you called Barnum & Bailey and the Ringling

Brothers to find out how they feel about him competing with them in the

circus business? I wonder how the Shriners feel.”

Those who know Wang well portray him as an undyingly faithful employer

– at least with his hockey team – and a good-hearted man who snubs his

nose at conventional thinking and doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Which is all well and good if you want to play the part of eccentric

billionaire, but Wang is one of 30 partners in a $2 billion industry

where his actions affect those of the other 29.

For his part, Wang does not dispute that he often tries to jam the

square peg into the round hole, but isn’t about to make apologies for


“There are a lot of franchises in our league who haven’t won a Cup in a

long time doing things the conventional way,” Wang said in an email.

“The only things that haven’t changed in our league over the last few

decades are the puck and the ice. Rules have changed significantly, the

equipment is different, the business is different. Can’t franchises try

different ideas?”

To understand where the 62-year-old Wang (pronounced Wong) gets his

outside-the-box ideas, you first have to understand how he got to be

one of the most powerful and influential individuals in the computer

software industry.

Born Wang Jialian in Shanghai in 1944, Wang and his family moved to

Queen’s, N.Y., when he was eight, three years after the Communist

takeover. Wang’s father, who was a lawyer, then a judge, in Shanghai,

got his degree in American law and went on to teach international law

at St. John’s University in New York. He then founded the Wang &

Wang law firm with his son, France, and it became one of the more

successful firms in the New York area.

Charles was a middling student who forged a reputation as a hard worker

rather than a scholar. As a teenage grocery store clerk, he memorized

the prices of the most popular items so he wouldn’t have to search for

the price tag. He would also open and double all his bags prior to his

shift so he could get people through the line more quickly.

A couple of months before graduating from Queen’s College, without even

knowing what a computer was, Wang saw more than two pages of classified

ads in the New York Times for computer programmers and decided that’s

what he would do. By the time he was 32, he had founded Computer

Associates, a software company that began with a net profit of $5,000

its first year and 12 years later recorded a profit of $1.2 billion.

To read the rest of this story and other great features from the world of

hockey, you can buy this issue

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