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'A friend to the world': Sir David Tang remembered

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Sir David Tang.

I was sad to hear of the passing of Sir David Tang this week as I had the immense pleasure and privilege of getting to know him over the past 25 years.

The media is already full of many tributes to him by the great and the good but the one area I feel has been missed out is perhaps his most enduring legacy, which was to have changed the world's perceptions of China.

I first met David in Hong Kong in 1995 just when I had set up M&C Saatchi with my partner Alan Jarvie. I had written to him with some hubris to say we were the chaps to help him take his infant Shanghai Tang brand global.

Remarkably he agreed to see me and I was immediately taken by his mission for his brand to turn the words 'Made in China' from a moniker of 'cheap tat' into something of quality that reflected China's rich cultural heritage.

We thus helped him launch China's first luxury global brand and it was the start of an amazing friendship.

He invited my wife and I to go to the opening of his China Club in Beijing at a time when the country was still knee-deep in traditional communism and had not experienced a party like that since Shanghai in the 1920s. Fergie and Kevin Costner were among the many notables who he had persuaded to attend.

After a glittering night we ended up walking up the Great Wall at 6am in the morning to watch the sunrise. It was totally deserted and we watched in awe as the sun burnt off the mist to reveal the wall winding over the distant hills. That morning was memorable for another reason as on our way down the chief executive of Shanghai Tang, Jeremy Tang (no relation), thought it would be a good idea to shin up a flagpole to procure a Chinese flag for his girlfriend, Andrea Catherwood, who was then the Asia correspondent for CNBC.

The problem was that someone had seen him and reported it to the police. I then had to help negotiate their liberty before it became an international incident.

Three years later David helped me secure our first 'fans', Michelle Yeoh and Vanessa Mae, for our Mandarin Oriental advertising campaign. This was not an easy challenge as we wanted genuine fans and never paid anyone to take part. We shot the first ad with him and Michelle at his house in Sai Kung with the late Lord Lichfield.

David and Patrick together was quite something as between them there was no-one on the planet that they did not know. Apart from one: Helene Grimaud of whom David was a lifelong fan and who I happened to know as she too is a 'Fan'. I arranged a lunch to introduce them and to thank me he invited me to his 60th birthday party at the Dorchester three years ago, which was like walking into the pages of Who's Who.

On the invitation he had said there would be a surprise musical guest but I did not make the connection until Helene walked on stage to perform David's favourite piece: Brahms' piano concerto, which he accompanied on cello. It was an amazing evening that summed him up: an accomplished musician, successful creative entrepreneur and friend to the world.

We will miss him very much and our thoughts are with his wife Lucy and his family. We are all richer from his time on this planet but not poorer from his passing – he taught us to live life to the full.

Michael Moszynski is chief executive and founder of London Advertising

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