April 4, 2007 / 10:18 AM / 13 years ago

Asia's richest woman, Nina Wang, dies

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Asia’s richest woman, Nina Wang, has died of an unspecified illness after reports she had been battling cancer, leaving unanswered questions over her estimated $4.2 billion (2.1 billion pound) fortune.

Asia's richest woman Nina Wang speaks to reporters at the Hong Kong Comic Fair in this July 29, 2001 file photo. Wang has died after an illness, her personal assistant said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Known for her signature pigtails and nicknamed “little sweetie” by the local media, Wang, 69, won a court case in 2005 for her late husband’s business empire in a case filled with tales of adultery, kidnapping and murder.

The Hong Kong heiress, whose maiden name was Kung, was reported by local newspapers to be suffering from cancer, but that was never officially confirmed.

“Chinachem Group’s chairwoman Nina Wang Kung passed away on April 3 and the details of the funeral will be announced later,” her personal assistant, Ringo Wong, told Reuters by telephone.

Wang’s company, Hong Kong’s largest private property developer, Chinachem Group, confirmed in a statement that she died on Tuesday.

Wang, ranked by Forbes Magazine as Asia’s 35th richest person, had no children but is survived by at least one brother and reportedly other siblings.

Lawyer Wong Tak-sing said under Hong Kong law Nina Wang’s brothers and sisters could apply to inherit her fortune if she did not have a will. Wang’s nieces or nephews could share the wealth as well if their parents had died.

Wang successfully battled her father-in-law for a multi-billion dollar estate left by her late husband Teddy Wang, a property tycoon who vanished more than a decade ago.

KIDNAPPED

Central to the marathon probate case was a handwritten will that Wang said was penned and signed by Teddy in March 1990, a month before he was kidnapped and never seen again. Some reports at the time said Teddy was gagged and bound and thrown out to sea from a Chinese “sampan” boat.

Teddy was also kidnapped in 1983 when his car was hijacked, and only released — left in an iron box at the side of a road — after Nina paid an $11 million ransom.

Born in Shanghai, Wang went to Hong Kong in 1955 to rejoin Teddy, who ran a pharmaceuticals and vinyl business before starting to dabble in property. By the 1980s the couple were part of the booming city’s glitterati.

Hong Kong newspapers reported late last year that Wang had ovarian cancer that had spread to her liver and other organs, and had been admitted to hospital for chemotherapy.

Two firms, in which Nina Wang held stakes, saw their stock prices fall on Wednesday. Fashion retailer ENM Holdings dropped 14 percent, while China Solar Energy Holdings Ltd. lost 2.63 percent.

Wang was also a strategic investor in CITIC 1616, which jumped 67 percent on its market debut the day she died, and was up 1.86 percent on Wednesday.

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