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Charles B. Wang, former Islanders owner dies, his attorney says

Born in Shanghai, China, he moved to the United States with his family at the age of 8. Wang later founded CA Technologies and led several Long Island-based philanthropic efforts.

The Islanders reacted on Monday to the news that former team owner Charles Wang died of lung cancer on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. (Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz; Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara, Joie Tyrell; Getty Images / Bruce Bennett, Cliff DeBear, Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke, Jim McIsaac)

Charles Wang, a founder of CA Technologies who poured his vast wealth into philanthropic pursuits on Long Island and around the world, and into efforts to keep the Islanders on Long Island, died Sunday. He was 74.

Wang of Oyster Bay was surrounded by his family at the time of his death, attorney John McEntee said in a statement. The cause was lung cancer, according to McEntee and Kimber Auerbach, director of communications for the New York Islanders.

Wang saw successes and setbacks in the fast-moving computer technology industry of the late 20th century and the financially fraught world of professional sports franchises in the early 21st century. He suffered the frustrations found in Long Island politics and gave back to society by donating millions to child health charities and higher education.

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman, in a statement issued Sunday, said Wang's "commitment to, and passion for, his beloved Islanders was matched by his dedication to, and support for, the Long Island community." He credited Wang as being the driving force behind efforts to promote hockey in China and video streaming the league.

Wang co-founded Computer Associates International, now known as CA Technologies, in 1976 and headquartered it in Islandia. He served as chairman and chief executive of what became one of Long Island’s iconic corporations.

With more business and sales savvy than software expertise when he started the company with Queens College classmate Russell Artzt, Wang's  skills helped propel CA to prominence with 20,000 employees at its peak.

With the wealth he earned from CA, Wang would provide $52 million for a sleek cultural center on the Stony Brook University campus to celebrate the links between Asian and American culture. Wang was born in China and came to the United States as a child in 1952.

He would use his business acumen and wealth to take part in professional sports team ownership. He purchased the Islanders in 2000 — a once proud NHL franchise that had lost much of its championship luster — and promised fans good times were in the future.

"We want to make the New York Islanders the world-class sports franchise that our community deserves, wants and needs," Wang said in April of 2000. "This is no easy task."

Wang was the majority owner of the Islanders until 2016, when he became a minority co-owner of the team that now plays half its games in Brooklyn's Barclays Center and half at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum.

"Charles Wang was kind, funny, generous, loyal. He loved Long Island, and boy did he love his #Isles," tweeted Chris Botta, former vice president of communications for the Islanders.  "A big part of his enormous legacy in business and philanthropy is that the Islanders are still in New York."

In 2016, Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann wrote: "Keeping the Islanders here, in the general vicinity of Long Island, and preserving the colors and the crest — that all represents the greatest win of all in Charles Wang’s run as head of the team. … He can be proud of the fact that he kept them afloat and kept them close enough for their fans to enjoy them."

Wang also built a list of philanthropic efforts, notable among them the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University. The center, which opened in 2002, was, at the time, the recipient of the largest donation from an individual to the State University of New York system.

Wang was born in Shanghai, China, on Aug. 19, 1944, and moved to the United States with his family at the age of 8. He attended Brooklyn Technical High School and graduated from Queens College with a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and physics. He met fellow student Russell Artzt and the two young men forged Artzt's know-how and Wang's business and sales skills to create CA.

"He was a great entrepreneur and leader of people," Artzt said Sunday. "We were able to build a great company together."

His career at CA and with the Islanders saw setbacks as well as successes.

CA's reputation was tarnished by a $2.2 billion accounting scandal that led to a prison sentence for former chief executive Sanjay Kumar in 2006. Kumar, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, securities fraud, obstruction of justice and lying to FBI agents, later alleged in court filings that Wang "personally directed" improper accounting at the company, which CA and Wang denied.

Wang also stumbled in his efforts to redevelop the Nassau Coliseum.

In 2004, Wang unveiled the $3.8 billion Lighthouse Project for the 77-acre site with a new arena, minor-league baseball stadium, restaurants, retail and a 60-floor tower that resembled a lighthouse. Hempstead Town officials called the plan, with 2,306 housing units, too dense for the area.

Then-Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray in 2010 announced an alternate zoning plan that cut the housing density of Wang's proposal in half. The next year, Nassau voters rejected a referendum on a $400 million taxpayer-funded revitalization plan for the Coliseum site.

In 2012, Wang, citing frustrations with the setbacks and politics, announced he would move the Islanders to the Barclays Center in 2015.

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who was Nassau County executive during some years of Wang's proposal, said even if the plans weren't built, they pushed Long Islanders to think differently about redevelopment projects.

"There are things happening today in Long Island only because he proposed such a visionary idea, to break people out of the traditional mindset of Long Island," Suozzi said Sunday. "He had a very ambitious vision. Maybe too ambitious. But he made Long Island think in different ways."

The first phase of a new plan to develop the area around the Coliseum is targeted to begin next year. The $1.5 billion project includes residential and commercial development.

"As we move forward with the development of the Nassau Hub, we will remember his [Wang's] commitment to the site and the need to have a vision for opportunity and economic growth," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement Sunday.

Scott Rechler, chief executive and chairman of Uniondale-based RXR Realty, which is to develop the site, said Sunday: “Charles loved Long Island and was always working to make it a stronger place from building CA’s headquarters here to fighting to keep the Islanders here. He touched so many Long Islanders in so many ways. While Charles is sadly gone, his fingerprints will always be on Long Island."

Wang also served as chairman of NeuLion, a digital video technology company, from 2008 to 2016. His other business interests included real estate and online grocery shopping. He is the author of "TechnoVision: The Executive’s Survival Guide to Understanding and Managing Information Technology" and "Wok Like A Man," a cookbook of his favorite Chinese food recipes.

Wang is survived by his wife Nancy Li; children, Kimberly, Jasmine and Cameron; his mother, Mary; brothers, Anthony of Lloyd Harbor and Francis, of Napa, California; and three grandchildren.

The services for Wang will be private.

With Candice Ferrette, David Reich-Hale and Andrew Gross

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