Taiwan finance 'titan' Koo dies at 79

Taiwanese tycoon Jeffrey L.S. Koo, head of a leading financial group and one of the island's richest men, has died at the age of 79, his company said Saturday.

Koo, chairman of Chinatrust Financial Holding Co., died at a hospital in New York on Thursday, his company said without identifying the cause of death.

"Chairman Koo was a titan in Taiwan's economy, trade and diplomacy," President Ma Ying-jeou's office said in a statement.

"Koo had countless friends in the United States, Japan and other Asian countries and he effectively helped the government promote trade and diplomacy... President Ma was deeply saddened by his death."

An influential business leader fluent in English and Japanese, Koo was appointed a presidential adviser in 1996 and an ambassador-at-large in 1998 by former president Lee Teng-hui to help promote Taiwan internationally.

Koo, from one of Taiwan's most prominent and richest families, was credited with helping stabilise ties with Washington when it switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.

Koo's late uncle Koo Chen-fu had served as Taiwan's top negotiator with China while he accompanied former vice president Lien Chan on a landmark visit to China in 2005 to promote peace with the mainland.

Koo's business empire included petrochemicals, cement, construction and telecommunications.

Koo is survived by his wife Koo Lin Jui-hui, three sons and a daughter.

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