Angela Chao, CEO of Foremost Group, dies in car accident

Angela Chao, CEO of a shipping company and part of a family prominent in American politics and business with China, died in a car accident on Sunday, in Texas. She was 50 years old.

His family confirmed his death. Details about the accident were not immediately available.

Since 2018, Ms. Chao had been president and CEO of the Chao family’s Foremost Group, which operates a global fleet of bulk carriers. The vessels are used to transport commodities such as iron ore and soybeans.

She was the sister of Elaine Chao, who served as Secretary of Transportation under former President Donald J. Trump, as well as Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush. Elaine Chao is married to Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader.

The Chao family, headed by Angela and Elaine Chao’s father, James SC Chao, is noted for its deep political and business ties in both the United States and China. Mr. Chao fled mainland China to Taiwan in the late 1940s with the Nationalists defeated. He moved to the United States in 1958 and helped found Foremost Group in 1964. He later cultivated a close relationship with Jiang Zemin, a former Shanghai schoolmate who rose to become president of China and who died in 2022.

Ms. Chao, along with her father, both American citizens, were among the few foreigners to serve on the boards of some of China’s largest companies. Both were directors of China State Shipbuilding’s holding company, a government-owned company that makes ships for the Chinese military as well as Foremost Group and other clients. Ms. Chao was also a member of the board of directors of Bank of China, one of the shipbuilder’s largest lenders, and a former vice president of the China Foreign Trade Council, an advocacy group created by the Chinese government.

“Although she was born in the United States, she never forgot her roots and throughout her life helped build bridges of understanding between East and West,” Chao said of her daughter in a statement.

“Losing her at such a young age is something we never imagined, and our entire family is devastated by grief,” he said.

The youngest of six daughters, Angela Chao was born in 1973 in Syosset, New York, on the north shore of Long Island, and grew up in Harrison, New York, an affluent town in Westchester County. She graduated from Harvard University in 1994 and completed her studies in three years.

After a brief interlude in finance at Smith Barney, he joined the family business in 1996 and later earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. As CEO of Foremost Group, Ms. Chao emphasized calls for new, more environmentally sustainable vessels that can burn alternative fuels.

“As a child, growing up, I was always fascinated by what my father did,” she said in a 2019 interview.

“I was always very proud to be part of this legacy,” she added.

The Chao family’s business ties to China attracted attention when Elaine Chao was transportation secretary under President Trump, who imposed sweeping tariffs on imports from China. A 2021 report from the Department of Transportation’s inspector general said Elaine Chao had used her office staff to help members of her family, but two divisions of the Justice Department declined to conduct a criminal investigation.

Angela Chao denied in the 2019 interview that Foremost was focused on China beyond what most dry bulk carriers have in a world where China is by far the largest manufacturer.

She was advisory director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York and member of the President’s Council of the Metropolitan Art Museum. She was also a founding member of the Asian American Foundation, which opposes discrimination, slander and violence against Asian Americans, and was co-chair of its education committee.

Ms. Chao married Bruce Wasserstein, an American financier, shortly before his death in 2009. She later married Jim Breyera venture capitalist in Austin, Texas, who also co-owns the Boston Celtics.

Journalist Lally Weymouth said she met Ms. Chao around the time of Mr. Wasserstein’s death, comforting her new friend over dinners in Manhattan.

“In this tough town, she was genuine,” said Weymouth, daughter of the late Katharine Graham, an editor at the Washington Post. “She got along well with everyone.”

In addition to her father and Elaine Chao, Ms. Chao is survived by three other sisters, her husband and her 3-year-old son.

Siyi Zhao contributed to the research.