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Douglas Fang, 38; Ran Bay Area Newspaper Firm

October 11, 2003|Eric Malnic | Times Staff Writer

Douglas Fang, chief operating officer of the San Francisco Examiner and other Fang family Bay Area publications, has died.

Fang, 38, died Wednesday after a lengthy battle with stomach cancer, his family said.

"Doug was one of the best and brightest among young San Franciscans, a fantastic representative of a powerful San Francisco family and one hell of a nice guy," said San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who has long had the political support of the Fang family. "I will miss my good friend, Doug."

The rags-to-riches rise of the family since immigrant John Ta Chuan Fang -- Douglas Fang's late father -- emigrated from Taiwan in the 1950s is part of Bay Area lore.

Beginning with a small weekly in the Lake Merced area, the Fangs swiftly expanded their publishing empire to include the thrice-weekly San Francisco Independent and weekly papers in Belmont, Foster City, Millbrae, Redwood City, San Carlos and San Mateo.

In July 2000, the Fangs bought the San Francisco Examiner from the Hearst Corp., making them the first Asian Americans to own a major metropolitan daily newspaper in the United States.

In the months that followed, Douglas Fang helped convert the paper from a broadsheet to a tabloid.

A graduate of Lowell High School in San Francisco, Douglas Fang earned his bachelor's degree at UC Berkeley.

Master's and doctorate degrees in computer science followed at USC, where he served briefly on the faculty.

After graduating, Fang helped start, develop and operate several high-tech companies, including Bridgespan, where he served as a senior vice president.

In 1999, a group of neighborhood organizations in San Francisco complained that the San Francisco Independent was running "political propaganda" supporting Brown while being funded in part by city money.

The controversy centered on a $650,000 loan from the Mayor's Office of Community Development to the firm that printed the Independent, Public Printing.

The loan agreement was signed by Brown and Douglas Fang, then the listed owner of the printing company.

The organizations complained that the Independent was straying from balanced journalism into political advocacy and that such loans are not supposed to be used for political purposes.

Officers of the Independent replied that the loan had not been misused, and accused mayoral candidate Clint Reilly, who was opposing Brown, of leading the criticism of the paper.

Brown won the election and the controversy was largely forgotten.

Douglas Fang joined the publishing side of the family business in 2001, working with both the Examiner and the local weeklies.

"His energy and enthusiasm not only dramatically changed our publications for the better, but he has left a lasting imprint on every aspect of this organization and those he worked with," said an elder brother, James Fang. "Douglas will be truly missed by all who knew him."

Douglas Fang is survived by his wife, Angela; a 6-year-old son, Sean Michael; and a year-old daughter, Allison. Services will be held Wednesday in Daly City, Calif.

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