A pioneer in the chemical and plastics industries, T. T. Chao (1921–2008) created a successful career that spanned more than 50 years. Chao founded numerous petrochemical and plastics fabrication companies, including plants in Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, China, and the United States. Many of these companies were in partnership with international companies such as Mobil Oil Corporation, Gulf Oil Corporation, Norsk Hydro AS, Sumitomo Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, Hercules, Inc/Himont Inc., BTR PLC, PNB (Malaysia), and the IFC of World Bank.
In the late 1940s Chao moved to Taiwan from Suzhou, China. In the mid-1950s he was a cofounder of Taiwan’s first polyvinyl chloride (PVC) business, under the auspices of a United States Agency for International Development program. A decade later he established China General Plastics Group, which included a number of the premier publicly held petrochemical and plastics manufacturers in Asia.
After three decades of experience and success in Asia, Chao entered the North American petrochemical industry with the acquisition of a polyethylene plant in Sulphur, Louisiana, and the creation of Westlake Polymers Corporation. This initial acquisition has grown through subsequent acquisitions and green-field construction to become Westlake Chemical Corporation, a NYSE-listed company engaged in the olefins and vinyls businesses in North America, with 14 operating sites and annual revenues close to $2 billion.
In the late 1980s Chao founded the Titan Group in Malaysia by building the country’s first and largest integrated petrochemical complex, in the state of Johor. Chao was honored as Datuk by the king of Malaysia for his contribution to the growth of the Malaysian petrochemical industry.
The Chao Symposium, which celebrates and encourages innovation in the Houston, Texas, region, is named in his honor and funded by the Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Foundation.