POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 23, 2011
Businessman William K.H. Mau was at the center of the tourism mecca known as Waikiki — literally.
Mau developed the Waikiki Shopping Plaza and the Waikiki Business Plaza on two corner lots at Kalakaua and Seaside avenues, geographically about midpoint between the Ala Wai and Kapahulu Avenue.
"He was right in the middle of Waikiki, and he could see as a developer and a landlord that Waikiki was the keystone to the whole tourism industry," said Stanley Hong, former president of the Hawaii Visitors Bureau.
Mau, 97, died Jan. 3 at his Honolulu home.
Mau's life read like a rags-to-riches tale.
A McKinley High School graduate, his first business was a refreshment stand at Kuhio Beach. At the age of 33, he began acquiring, subdividing and selling real estate, according to biographical information provided by the Mau family.
At one point, he purchased the historic Lau Yee Chai Restaurant, and the land under it, at the Ewa end of Kuhio Avenue. On it, he developed the Ambassador Hotel, which is still owned and operated by the Maus.
The restaurant, meanwhile, later reopened on the top floor of the Waikiki Shopping Plaza, which opened in 1977 at the former site of the Tropics of Waikiki restaurant at the Ewa-mauka corner of Kalakaua and Seaside.
Eleven years earlier, Mau had opened the Waikiki Business Plaza across the street. Like the shopping plaza, it also featured a landmark restaurant on the top floor — the revolving restaurant known as The Top of Waikiki.
Hong said the visitors' bureau was located in the business plaza because of its central location.
When HVB sought to expand, Mau accommodated the growing bureau with extra space at a good rate. Known today as the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, the HVCB offices are still in the Waikiki Business Plaza.
While the deal helped the bureau, Mau also benefited by ensuring a heavily trafficked entity could be reached by folks only by traveling through the restaurants and shops at the lower levels, Hong said.
That wasn't the first shrewd deal Mau made at the business plaza.
The plaza is built on what was once a gasoline station and parking lot owned by the late Roy Kelley, the legendary patriarch of Waikiki's Outrigger Hotel empire.
Hong said that according to legend, Kelley agreed to sell the property to Mau only when he promised not to develop a competing hotel there.
Dr. Richard R. Kelley, current chairman of Outrigger Enterprises Group, said he'd also heard that story, but noted that such an agreement between his father and Mau probably couldn't be found in writing anywhere.
"Those were the good old days when your word was your bond and your handshake was your seal," Kelley said.
What the younger Kelley does know is that the proceeds from that sale helped his father complete the Outrigger Reef Hotel and paved the way for development of the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel.
Meanwhile, Mau captured two key parcels in the center of Waikiki. "Bill was a very smart guy," Richard Kelley said. "Like a lot of people, he watched the traffic patterns, he watched where people walked and where people drove. And that really was the center of Waikiki."
In 1972, Mau was the owner and operator of a car lot along Kapiolani Boulevard known as Aloha Motors, which for a time was the largest General Motors dealership in Hawaii.
In 1987, Mau sold the property to Japanese investors. Today, it is the site of the Hawai'i Convention Center.
Mau was also a key member of the financial world and, at the age of 44, became chairman of American Security Bank.
Leighton Mau, one of Bill Mau's sons, said his father, along with contemporaries like Hiram Fong, Hung Wo Ching and cousin Chinn Ho, were revolutionaries.
"They were among the first generation of Asian business leaders to break out in the 1940s," Leighton Mau said.
Not all was rosy in William Mau's life.
In the early 2000s, Mau was involved in a multimillion-dollar tax fight with the IRS that also exposed allegations of physical and emotional abuse, sexual harassment and other improprieties brought by a former business associate who was also his sister-in-law.
In 1978, Milton Mau, his oldest son, was charged with trying to kill his three children. He later underwent psychiatric treatment.
In 2006, grandson Adam Mau-Goffredo killed three people during a shooting spree on Tantalus.
Mau is survived by sons Milton and Leighton; daughters Cynthia Seu, Lynette Mau and Letitia George; sisters Mavis Lee, Vivian Fo and Loretta Young; 13 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.
Services were held Jan. 14 .