Charles B. Wang, 74, an entrepreneur and dealmaker who built a multibillion-dollar software business and became a majority owner of the New York Islanders, died Sunday at his home in Oyster Bay, N.Y.
The cause was lung cancer.
Wang (pronounced Wong) was a controversial figure in the software industry. He was a Chinese immigrant who built a successful company. But he also became a symbol of lavish executive pay and was embroiled in an accounting scandal, though he was never formally charged.
By the end of the 1990s, Computer Associates, which Wang co-founded and led, was the world's third-largest software maker, trailing only Microsoft and IBM in sales. Yet the business was not widely known outside the industry because it focused on behind-the-scenes software programs. Many of them managed digital operations in corporate computer centers.
Wang, the chairman and chief executive, was fond of calling Computer Associates "the biggest software company nobody ever heard of."
Computer Associates, founded in 1976, was an agglomeration of some 200 acquisitions, a testimony to Wang's deal making fervor.
In March 2000, Wang appeared on the cover of Business Week, under the headline "Software's Tough Guy." The magazine called his management style "harsh but effective," delivering hefty profits. The workers who remained were treated well. Fortune magazine put Computer Associates on its list of the best U.S. companies to work for.
Wang was routinely one of the nation's highest-paid executives. In 1998, he received a $670 million stock grant.
Criticism and scrutiny followed, prompting a long-running federal investigation into the company's accounting practices. Wang stepped aside as chief executive in 2000, handpicking his successor, Sanjay Kumar.
In 2004, after a four-year investigation that focused on backdated contracts and whether profits were artificially inflated, Computer Associates reached an agreement with the Justice Department to avoid prosecution, including $225 million in restitution to shareholders.
In 2006, Kumar was sentenced to 12 years in prison for orchestrating a $2.2 billion accounting fraud, mainly in 1999 and 2000. Wang was never charged.
But a year later, a 390-page report by the Computer Associates board, assisted by an outside law firm, found Wang culpable as well. Wang dismissed the report as "fallacious."
By then, Computer Associates had replaced its senior management team and most of its board members. The business had shrunk by 40 percent from 2000 to 2006. The company later changed its name to CA Technologies.
Wang's philanthropy included founding Smile Train, which provides cleft-palate surgeries free to children in developing countries.
Local loyalty, more than a sports passion, seemed to have led to his participation in the NHL. He had attended only one pro hockey game when he was sought out in 2000 to become a major investor in the Islanders.
Wang became the majority owner from 2001 to 2016. He then scaled back to a minority stake. As a nonexpert, Wang had some unconventional suggestions, like trying out sumo wrestlers for goalies. "He assumed nobody could put a goal past a sumo wrestler," Mike Milbury, a former general manager of the Islanders, told the New York Times.
Charles B. Wang was born on Aug. 19, 1944, in Shanghai. When he was 8, his family moved to New York.
New York Times