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Charles Wu, founder of KMC, passes away and industry mourns his death

Published October 20, 2017

TAINAN, Taiwan (BRAIN) — Charles Wu, who founded KMC Group in 1977, has passed away at his home in Tainan. He died Sunday at the age of 77 surrounded by his family. A funeral date is pending.

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Wu launched his business, later named KMC, after buying two small second-hand chain factories. He built that company into a mini-empire within the industry making bicycle and motorcycle chains in almost a dozen factories located worldwide.

Wu was well known by many industry executives who have worked with the company for years. KMC has distributors in dozens of nations, and more than 4,000 employees worldwide. Wu's son, Robert, is the company's president. Wu's daughter, Deborah, is vice president of sales and marketing.

Arnold Kamler, Kent's chairman and CEO and a longtime friend of Wu, said the pair had become good friends over the years and often played golf together.

"For many years Charlie would meet his close friends in Tainan and they would tee off at about 6 a.m. and play 18 holes, shower, and then get to the office at 9 a.m. He worked, in the old days, until 7 or 8 p.m. every night building his business," Kamler recalled.

"Of course, as we all know, KMC has become the world's dominant producer of bicycle, motorcycle and garage door chains, plus they are owners of ProWheel, one of the finest producers of chainwheels," Kamler added.

KMC makes chains for Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo, meeting the highest standards of compatibility for three very different companies.

But the money and status that Wu earned over the years meant little to him, Kamler said. "I recall visiting him about 10 years ago in Tainan and he met me at the airport in a Nissan that was more than 10 years old. In fact, I think it still said 'Datsun,'" Kamler recalled.

Bob Margevicius, a vice president at Specialized, has known Wu and his family for years. "Charlie Wu was an incredible leader, father, champion and a pioneer for Taiwan," Margevicius said. "I will never forget meeting him for the first time in Taipei. He was so gracious and welcoming, and I was just a young freshman in the business," he said.

When Margevicius met Wu, he was still working in his factory and took the time to show Margevicius the finer points of chain manufacturing. "He was so humble and an inspiration. He taught me the value of relationships, kindness and how to listen," Margevicius added.

Kamler, in a final note, recalled that Wu was always proud of his mustache. "It kind of made him look like the actor Charles Bronson and that also became his nickname. He was incredibly kind and generous and a credit to the human race. I will miss him," Kamler said.

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