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Shanghai Tang founder: I'm a 'tyrant' who gets things done

Following the launch of his new lifestyle boutique, the founder of Shanghai Tang told CNBC that he has been described by people who work for him as a "tyrant."

60-year old David Tang, who is best known for the international clothing chain Shanghai Tang, and the China Clubs restaurant and club chain, acknowledged that he could be a difficult man to work for.

"Apparently it's appalling [my management style]. I shout at people… I am told that I'm a tyrant but I still get things done so that is fine," he told CNBC's "Managing Asia."

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Tang told CNBC he bans the use of adjectives in his company meetings and likes to drill straight down to the facts.

"I'm tough in terms of management accuracy because we all rely on management reports. And unless they are accurate and they are full of information, one cannot extrapolate what to do next, and it is important, very important I get a report everyday on every single sale every single shop that I have," he said.

David Tang founded the Shanghai Tang boutique chain and restaurants including Island Tang in Hong Kong and China Tang in London.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
David Tang founded the Shanghai Tang boutique chain and restaurants including Island Tang in Hong Kong and China Tang in London.

The well-known Hong Kong socialite's new lifestyle boutique – named Tang Tang Tang Tang (TTTT) - opened its first store in Hong Kong late last year, and will offer house wares and gadgets designed by himself and his wife Lucy Tang.

Tang said he was excited about tapping into what he sees as a burgeoning segment of the Chinese population – young home owners.

According to Tang, the number of young people buying their first flat is set to boom as strict property rules relax in China and he estimates around 100 to 150 million people to be impacted by this.

"I think the greatest growth on earth in the next 10 years is going to come from rising middle class of China… if you ask any brand, they would tell you that the Chinese market is perhaps by far the most important market and it is growing," he said.

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Tang told CNBC he had aggressive expansion plans for TTTT - which was named after the opening chords of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony - over the next five to ten years.

"There is no point mucking around and saying we are just going to have one or two shops and that's it… we are going to reach you know 40 shops around the world. I want 150 shops in china," he added.

However, Tang said he was going to be careful not to make the same mistakes he had made in the past.

In 2006 he sold off his stake in Shanghai Tang to Swiss-based luxury goods firm Richemont, and the businessman admitted that the sale had been more to do with a personal conflict than any real desire not to own the business anymore.

"The crux of the matter was… the partnership between Richemont and myself was going sour for personal reasons and you know you can't have two people arguing all the time so it was either my buying him out or him buying me out," he added.

Tang told CNBC he would never get into bed with a corporation again.

"Especially one that doesn't understand or underestimate individual talents… if you gave me a billion dollars tomorrow I would… bolt away immediately," he added.

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But Tang said the biggest regret had made over his long career was not investing more heavily in the Hong Kong property market back in the 1990s.

Since 2009 prices have more than doubled in Hong Kong, amid strong demand from mainland China and record-low mortgage rates.

"If I woke up again in 1995, that is what I would have done and I would be much richer and more successful," he added.

Tang also founded Havana House and Pacific Cigar Company.

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