Monday, October 4, 1999

100 Who Made A Difference

Star Matsuo Takabuki Star

Star-Bulletin file photo
Matsuo Takabuki, seen here in 1987, "took the Bishop Estate
from what it was to what it is today," said Judge James Burns.

Takabuki helped make
Bishop Estate wealthy

By Rick Daysog


WHEN his controversial appointment to the Bishop Estate board was announced in 1972, the bells at Kawaiahao Church gonged in protest. When he left the estate 21 years later, those same bells chimed in tribute.

In its 115-year history, few have left a bigger mark on the Bishop Estate than Matsuo Takabuki.

He helped transform the nonprofit charitable trust from a land-rich, cash-poor entity to a multibillion-dollar empire spanning three continents.

"He definitely is the leader who took the Bishop Estate from what it was to what it is today," said James Burns, chief judge of the state Intermediate Court of Appeals. Takabuki was a key adviser to Burns' father, Gov. John Burns. "He transformed it from a small-town trust to a big-time world player."

Dennis Ogawa, University of Hawaii professor of American studies who helped Takabuki write his 1998 autobiography, said the former trustee played a key role in many pivotal points in modern Hawaii.

Trained as an attorney, Takabuki is a veteran of World War II's highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team and served 16 years in what is now called the Honolulu City Council. He also played a big role in legendary financier Chinn Ho's efforts to build his empire.

Along the way, Takabuki attracted controversy. His 1972 appointment as a Bishop Estate trustee drew protests from native Hawaiians, who called it a political payoff and were upset a non-Hawaiian was picked. His legal battles with former fellow trustee Hung Wo Ching over purchase of the estate's Kawaiahao Plaza headquarters also generated headlines.

But the 76-year-old Takabuki's lasting legacy will be the estate's successful investment in Goldman Sachs Group. From a $500 million initial investment, the estate stands to gain $2 billion to $3 billion. The windfall will finance the education of hundreds of native Hawaiian children at the Kamehameha Schools for decades.

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