Chairman Fang and his knitting empire

Kenneth Fang is chairman of Fang Brothers Knitting Limited, which has a payroll of 15,000 and an annual output of 24 million garments.

The Chinese tycoon first declared an interest in buying Pringle on February 15 2000 with the 10m deal for the ailing firm being done just days later.

Fang, who was born in Shanghai, told the Hawick News that week: "I have been to Hawick twice to inspect the factories and I appreciate the quality of the company's products . . . The majority of output will be cashmere once I take over in a few weeks time, and although production costs in Hawick are higher than in other countries, because the quality is better you can afford to demand a higher price."

At the time, Mr Fang also promised that the future of the then 230-strong workforce was safe, and also raised the prospect of a move to a new custom-built factory and an increase in the number of employees.

Just days after the takeover, Mr Fang said farewell to the fairways and ended the firm's near 20-year association with golfing superstar Nick Faldo, and sought to attract younger customers through celebrity models such as Jodie Kidd.

Mr Fang poached new chief executive Kim Winser from Marks & Spencer in March of 2000. Speaking to the paper after her appointment, she said: "Mr Fang is an honourable man with whom I have done business over the past 10 years, and I have the highest respect for him."

Also in March 2000, Archy Kirkwood MP received assurances from Mr Fang that his firm had a clear future strategy rooted in an enhanced production role for Hawick. During a two-hour meeting with Mr Fang in Hong Kong, Mr Kirkwood also discussed long-term plans for new investment in plant and premises in Hawick.

In May 2002, Mr Fang, who was honoured with an OBE and CBE in 1990 and 1997 respectively, looks at floating Pringle, after the fortunes of the heavily loss-making business had been turned round by Ms Winser.

"The business may be floated in the future," commented Mr Fang. "There is no need to do it, but we might do it for the prestige, but we will probably wait a few years. Kim's got plenty on her plate."

Mr Fang's son Douglas is named Pringle chief executive in November 2005. He replaces Ms Winser who had announced her resignation a month earlier.

Douglas Fang, who was named Industrialist of the Year 2002 by the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, also has considerable private business interests including retail chain Episode.