NEW YORK, March 10, 1998 – Koong-Kai Tse, who joined a predecessor company of American International Group, Inc. (AIG) in Shanghai in 1927 as a “sub-accountant” and went on to hold senior executive positions with many AIG companies over a period of 70 years, died on Monday in New York City at the age of 91. He had homes in New York City and Miami.
Known to everyone as “K.K.”, Mr. Tse was hired by C.V. Starr, the founder of the American International family of companies eight years after Starr established American Asiatic Underwriters (AAU) in Shanghai. Mr. Tse held a number of positions with Starr companies in Shanghai, including Chief Accountant and then Assistant Treasurer of AAU, in which capacity he helped save the company’s records following the Japanese occupation of Shanghai. Later, after the end of World War II, Mr. Tse rescued the records a second time as they were about to be destroyed.
In 1948, after AAU had re-established its operations in Shanghai and as the growing conflict in China between the Nationalist and Communist forces put a stranglehold on foreign exchange, the company found it could no longer operate in Shanghai as a regional headquarters. Over the New Year’s holidays, Mr. Tse chartered three planes and flew the AAU staff, their families and all the company records from Shanghai to Hong Kong, without the loss of a single work day.
Over the succeeding years, Mr. Tse held many positions with C.V. Starr companies and later with AIG, the corporation formed in 1967 that eventually became the parent company for all of the American International operations around the world. He was for 20 years Chairman of Nan Shan Life Insurance Company of Taiwan, a company he helped to found and which is part of the AIG family. At his death, Mr. Tse was an Honorary Director of AIG and Chairman of American International Underwriters, Ltd. of Hong Kong. In 1974, he received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy for Achievement.
In a statement to AIG employees and retirees, AIG Chairman M.R. Greenberg noted, “K.K. Tse was a key member of that small group that helped C.V. Starr build his Asian insurance business from the earliest days, and he later rose to a very senior role within the company. The stories of K.K.’s resourcefulness and dedication are legend within AIG. Even in his later years, when his health was failing, K.K. continued to come to the office and to play an active role in AIG. For me, he was a trusted friend and colleague. For all of us who knew and worked with K.K. over the years, he was a source of inspiration and pride. Our thoughts and condolences go to K.K.’s wife, son Steve, four daughters and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We will all miss him a great deal.”
Mr. Tse was born February 10, 1907 in Kiangsu, China and graduated from the University of Shanghai. He is survived by his wife, Teh Ying Tse; a son, Stephen Y.N. Tse, who retired in 1996 as a Senior Vice President of AIG; four daughters, Cecilia Y.H. Tse Ying of Boca Raton, Florida, Angelina Y.G. Tse Wang of Miami, and Virginia Y.C. Tse and Helena Y.N. Tse, both of New York City; nine grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren. He died peacefully at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Funeral services will be held on Thursday, March 12 at 9:45 a.m. at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, 1076 Madison Avenue, New York City.
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