The clothier Esprit began in 1968 when Susie and Doug Tompkins sold clothes out of the back of a station wagon in San Francisco. Esprit Far East Group began operating in the 1970s when the couple met Michael Ying. He would play an important role in the expansion of the Esprit brand.
Ying was born in Hong Kong in 1949. His family originated from Wenchang in Hainan, China. Ying came from humble beginnings and early in his career was working in a factory. He eventually associated with Esprit when he was hired as its sole sourcing agent in 1971.
Ying went on to hold the positions of CEO and Chairman of the board. He was the largest individual shareholder with a 15 percent stake. Ying steadily reduced this majority stake in recent years making over $2 billion along the way. He stepped down as CEO in 2006.
During his tenure at Esprit sales increased 30 fold to HK$23.3 billion in the year ended June 2006 from HK$769.7 million in 1993. Revenue has been dropping since then with the increasing competition.
Ying later engaged in philanthropic activities and established Yanai Foundation in 2006. He recently doubled his stake at Esprit from 4.8 percent to 10.3 percent in November 2012 which sparked talks of his taking a more active role in the company. So far this has not materialized.
Whatever his future plans may be Ying has already made his mark at Esprit.