Newsday is reporting that former Islanders owner Charles Wang has died. The 74-year-old passed away at his home in Oyster Bay on Sunday, according to his lawyer.
No cause of death was reported.
The Islanders issued a statement quoting co-owner Jon Ledecky, who took over from Wang along with Scott Malkin and Dewey Shaw.
“We are heartbroken by the news of Charles Wang’s passing. New York Islanders’s co-owners Dewey Shay, Scott Malkin and I were privileged to be selected by Charles to be his partners in the team. Charles loved the Islanders unconditionally. The arena at Belmont Park will be just one of his many legacies left to the team and to Long Island. His unique personality, his wonderful sense of humor and his extraordinary wisdom will be greatly missed,” said Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky.
”Charles Wang was a great man,” Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello said. “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. Most importantly, we’ve all lost a great friend. Our deepest sympathies to his wife Nancy and children Kimberly, Jasmine, and Cameron.”
The Shanghai-born, Brooklyn-raised Wang, who founded company Computer Associates, purchased the Islanders along with business partner Sanjay Kumar in 2000 for $187.5 million. Wang served as majority owner until 2016, when Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin bought the team for about $485 million. Wang remained with the organization as a minority owner.
Wang also purchased the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, in 2004 and helped keep the team there. He eventually came to also operate the team’s home arena and NeuLion, a company he co-owned with his wife Nancy, streamed AHL games until this current season.
He was also a philanthropist, starting the charitable Charles B. Wang Foundation, the New York Islanders Children’s Foundation, and the Smile Train organization to help children with cleft lips and palates. Later, he helped establish hockey rinks and youth programs in his native China in an effort to spread the sport to new areas of the globe.
Wang’s family moved to Brooklyn when he was 8, and after graduating from Queens College, he founded CA in 1976. By buying smaller companies along the way, CA became, at the time he purchased the Islanders, the third biggest software company in the world.
His legacy as Islanders owner is a complicated one. He bought the team in 2000 when no one else wanted it, and knew he was in for a bitter battle to get the franchise a new home arena to replace the always-aging Nassau Coliseum. He immediately invested money in the roster, leading to the acquisitions of Michael Peca and Alexei Yashin, who led the team to their first playoff appearance in seven seasons and a short-lived renaissance.
In 2004, Wang announced plans for his expansive Lighthouse Project which would include an arena, residential housing and business outlets. By 2011, the plan ultimately failed, proving to be too big for often small-minded Long Island politicians.
Wang and the Islanders then signed an “iron-clad” 25-year lease with Barclays Center that proved to be about 21 years too long. He later steered Ledecky and Malkin towards securing an agreement with the state to build an arena and shopping complex at Belmont Park and a temporary stay back at the old Coliseum before it gets finished.
Without Wang, there’s no telling where or even if the Islanders would exist today. He bought the team out of a belief that they should always remain on Long Island, the place he came to view as his home. His development plans dot the Island everywhere and will continue to grow into the future.
But there was plenty more on his record that makes him a less-than beloved figure by many in the fanbase.
During the Lighthouse Project era, with his team stifled by an oppressive lease with the Coliseum, Wang held a tight grip on the team’s finances, which kept them from playing on a level field with the rest of the NHL. He could be a meddling and often needlessly obtrusive owner, occasionally drawing attention to his team though unique behavior at odds with established hockey norms. NeuLion’s streaming services were frequently criticized by internet AHL watchers.
Then there was the matter of his business practices, which may not have been totally on the up-and-up. Former business Kumar was convicted of fraud in 2006 and spent over a dozen years in prison for crimes that he claimed started from the top, which would have been Wang.
Wang’s life and ownership of the Islanders will be debated for the rest of time. For now, we’ll wish peace to a man who bought a professional team out of either a sense of civic duty or a business opportunity, and ended up becoming a fellow hockey fan. Our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.
From NHL commissioner Gary Bettman:
Commissioner Bettman statement on the passing of @NYIslanders minority owner Charles Wang. pic.twitter.com/T8alrpbuoF— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 21, 2018
From AHL commissioner David Andrews:
Charles was a tremendous asset to the American Hockey League both as a franchise owner and as a respected businessman, representing the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on our Board of Governors and providing leadership on many technological advancements within the league.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Nancy, and his entire family.
The Arizona Coyotes are deeply saddened about the passing of @NYIslanders Minority Owner Charles Wang. Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles’ wife Nancy, his entire family, and the #Islanders organization.— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) October 21, 2018
The Canadiens are saddened to hear of the passing of Charles Wang. Our sincere condolences go out to the Wang family and the entire @NYIslanders organization during this difficult time. https://t.co/ZQBkzPSB4q— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) October 21, 2018
Charles Wang cared more about the community and fans then he did the cost of running @NYIslanders. His ideas (Sumo wrestlers as Goalies) were sometimes interesting. His passion was not. I’ve never seen another @NHL owner give his players hugs instead of handshakes. RIP Charles— Mark Parrish (@MarkDParrish) October 21, 2018
Such a generous man. He was a Great exemple on how important are human relations in life and in business, treated every one with respect. It was an pleasure meeting you Charles B. Wang , you will be missed https://t.co/XlGTfAKxBx— Bruno Gervais (@bruno_gervais27) October 21, 2018
Sad to hear the news this morning about Charles Wang. A kind person who had an extremely unique way of looking at the world. I feel honored to have been able to spend time with him. My condolences to his family.— Kyle Okposo (@bookerT2116) October 21, 2018
Charles Wang honored w moment of silence @TheGarden pic.twitter.com/veW7igZMcR— Eric Hornick (@ehornick) October 21, 2018