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Chinatrust Chairman Jeffrey Koo Dies in New York City at Age 79

Chinatrust Chairman Jeffrey Koo Dies in New York City at Age 79
Jeffrey Koo smiles during the opening ceremony of Chinatrust's first branch in Vietnam, held in Ho Chi Minh-City, in this 02 August 2002 file photo. Koo has died. He was 79. Source: AFP via Getty Images

Jeffrey Koo, chairman of Chinatrust Financial Holding Co., who brought credit cards to Taiwan and who served as a presidential adviser, has died. He was 79.

Koo passed away Dec. 6 at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, according to a statement from the Taipei-based company, which didn’t specify the cause of death. Hsueh Hsiang-Chuan, a board director, has been appointed acting chairman, the company said in the statement.

Jeffrey Koo introduced credit cards to Taiwan in 1974 and became chairman of Chinatrust in 1988, leading the company to become the island’s largest credit card issuer with 17 percent of the market. With a fortune of $1.1 billion, Koo was Taiwan’s 28th richest person last year, according to Forbes magazine.

Koo’s personal holdings included 4.7 percent of Chinatrust Financial as of Sept. 30, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The company reported net income of NT$15.5 billion ($533 million) for the first nine months of 2012.

Koo used his wealth to help promote Taiwan’s international presence, organizing social events with dignitaries during meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, according to “The Rich and Powerful Families in Taiwan - the Koos of the Koos’ Group,” by Sima Xiaoqing, published in 1998.

Jeffrey Koo also served as adviser to three Taiwan presidents -- Lee Teng-hui, Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou -- advocating for closer economic cooperation with China. He was a board member of Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation, according to a 2011 government publication.

Taiwan’s High Court last month allowed his son, Jeffrey Koo Jr., to leave the country to visit his father after he posted a NT$1 billion bond, according to a statement posted on the court’s website.

The younger Koo is appealing a nine-year prison sentence imposed by the Taipei District Court after he was convicted of share manipulation during an attempted takeover. He resigned as vice chairman in November 2006, disrupting succession plans.

Rachael Kao, a spokeswoman for Chinatrust, said the company has yet to schedule a board meeting to elect a new chairman.

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