You live and you learn: Sir David Tang

The founder of luxury retailer Shanghai Tang on the perils of gambling, working with big corporations and the 'nonsense' of east versus west.

by Elizabeth Anderson
At university, I studied philosophy, then I went to law college. My grandfather said being a philosopher was pointless and that he'd buy me a flat if I became a lawyer.

I didn't like law. Every client had a problem, and I didn't want to listen to people's problems; I had enough of my own. I had lost my flat in a casino. I won it back. But then I lost it again on the horses.

My family were refugees and by nature entrepreneurial. My grandfather started a bus company. Luck and being in the right place at the right time are the most important things for succeeding in business.

I started Shanghai Tang in 1994. In 1998 I sold a 40% stake to Richemont and the rest in 2006. I couldn't cope with them. Its founder, Johann Rupert, was one of my oldest friends, but all his lieutenants were ghastly. Entrepreneurs should never work with big corporations.

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