TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- Wang Yung-ching, a businessman who built his Formosa Plastics Group into Taiwan's biggest and most profitable manufacturing conglomerate, has died, the group said Thursday. He was 91.
Wang died Wednesday during a business trip to the United States, Formosa Plastics said in a brief statement. Local TV stations reported that Wang died of cardiac arrest in a New Jersey hospital.
A farmer's son with only an elementary school education, Wang set up a rice store with his two brothers in his early 20s. He then established the Formosa Plastics Corp. in 1954 with a loan from a U.S. aid program.
Forbes listed Wang as the island's second wealthiest person this year, with a personal fortune estimated at $6.8 billion.
Known widely as the "God of Management," Wang expanded his plastics and petrochemicals empire and diversified into electronics, cosmetics, hospitals and car manufacturing.
A strong proponent of closer economic ties with rival China, Wang invested in power plants and plastics factories on the Chinese mainland. Formosa Plastics also set up chemical companies in the U.S. and owns several oil wells and properties rich in natural gas in Texas.
A recent survey by Chunghwa Credit Information Service listed Formosa Plastics Group as Taiwan's most profitable conglomerate, with 219 billion New Taiwan dollars ($6.7 billion) in profits after tax last year.
Wang is said to have lived an austere life, staying in an apartment inside his group's headquarters in downtown Taipei. The corporate culture of "thrifty and hardworking" is believed to have contributed to the group's immense success.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou praised Wang for his "outstanding contributions to Taiwan" and for promoting a vision of peace and prosperity with China, Ma's office said.
But Wang's group has been criticized by environmentalists.
Formosa Plastics was accused in 1998 of dumping 3,000 tons of waste contaminated with high levels of mercury near the Cambodian port city of Sihanoukville, causing a local panic. The company later agreed to ship the waste back to Taiwan.
Formosa Plastics said Wang assigned seven senior managers to run the group in 2006 and they will continue to oversee operations collectively following his death.
Wang is survived by his wife, Lee Pao-chu, two sons and eight daughters.
His eldest son, Winston Wang, runs Grace T.H.W., a group active in petrochemicals and electronics in China.
Daughter Cher Wang and her husband, Chen Wen-chi, manage chip developer VIA Technologies Inc.
The tycoon's brother, Wang Yung-tsai, has been closely involved in the running of Formosa Plastics Group.