Charles Wang, former majority owner of the New York Islanders, founder of CA Technologies and active philanthropist, died on Sunday at his home in Oyster Bay at the age of 74.
“Charles was an incredible and influential figure for Long Island, with both the extraordinary growth of Computer Associates (CA) and his purchase of the Islanders,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who developed a personal friendship with Wang. “His attempts to keep the Islanders on Long Island will long be remembered. As we move forward with the development of the Nassau Hub, we will remember his commitment to the site and the need to have a vision for opportunity and economic growth.”
Wang purchased the Islanders in 2000, at a time of major uncertainty for the National Hockey League (NHL) franchise. The Shanghai-born, Brooklyn-raised businessman would then pour his personal fortune into the team, saving it from relocation and keeping it on the ice at Nassau Coliseum until 2012 when, frustrated by the lack of political support for the coliseum’s renovation and his Lighthouse Project, he signed a deal to move the Islanders to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Lighthouse Project, a $3.8 billion plan proposed by Wang in 2004, would have built up the 77-acre coliseum site with a new arena, 60-floor “lighthouse” tower, retail, restaurants and possibly even a minor-league baseball stadium and more than 2,000 housing units. Hempstead officials balked at the size of the plan, frustrating Wang for close to a decade until he signed the deal to move the Islanders in 2012. The team premiered in Brooklyn in 2015, one year after Wang sold the Islanders.
Though his vision for the coliseum property was stymied, this past year NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum operators RXR Realty and BSE Global announced a $1.5 billion project to develop housing, retail and office space on the site, dubbed “Nassau Hub.” Meanwhile, the Islanders are targeting a new $1 billion home at Belmont Park.
But Wang’s legacy stretches beyond the team, the Lighthouse Project and his many showdowns with the Town of Hempstead. He served as the chairman of digital video company NeuLion from 2008 to 2016 and was the author of TechnoVision: The Executive’s Survival Guide to Understanding and Managing Information Technology, as well as Wok Like a Man, a collection of his favorite recipes. Wang will also be remembered for his many philanthropic ventures, including Smile Train, which provides free surgery to children in developing countries, and Project Hope, an international program working to develop ice hockey in China.
Wang is survived by his wife Nancy Li; children, Kimberly, Jasmine and Cameron; his mother, Mary; brothers, Anthony of Lloyd Harbor and Francis, of Napa, CA; and three grandchildren.
“Charles Wang, who proudly called Oyster Bay his home, will be remembered for his extraordinary success in business, both as the founder of CA Technologies and as the owner of the New York Islanders,” said Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino. “But, perhaps his most enduring legacy, will be as a visionary and a philanthropist, who left his indelible mark on Long Island and truly made a difference in the lives of others. He will be greatly missed.”