Chinese tycoon dies in freak fall in France

Daniel Fowler
July 5, 2018

HNA said on Wednesday that Wang Jian, 57, had fallen and died from his injuries on Tuesday in Provence, without providing any more details of his death.

Witnesses described him falling from a small wall while travelling in the hilltop village of Bonnieux in Provence, according to Financial Times.

Chinese business and finance magazine Caixin, cited "people close to Wang" as saying he fell from a high place near Avignon.

BEIJING-The co-chairman of HNA Group, a conglomerate that operates China's fourth-largest airline and finance, logistics and other businesses around the world, died in an accident while on a business trip in France, the company said Wednesday.

Wang owned about 15 per cent of the Chinese group, making him one of the group's biggest shareholders, Bloomberg reported.

He was also the guest of honor at the Jewish Museum's 31st annual Purim Ball at the Park Avenue Armory in NY last year, where he was presented with a gift in front of 700 guests - a crystal bowl decorated with two gold roosters - to mark the Chinese calendar's year of the rooster. It also has major stakes in Germany's leading lender Deutsche Bank, hotel chain Hilton and a property portfolio in London. An HNA representative couldn't immediately comment.

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He was in charge of HNA's strategy and ran day-to-day operations, sources familiar with the matter have said, while his fellow chairman and co-founder Chen Feng was often the public face of the group.

But, under pressure from Beijing, HNA has sold off many of its prime assets to slash debt, with recent sales including holdings in companies such as Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc, Park Hotels & Resorts and Spain's NH Hotels.

"It will also put HNA Group and related companies' restructuring plans back on the drawing board, in our view", Png added. In 1990, he helped establish Hainan Provincial Airlines Co. and was one of the founders of the group.

It comes after an aggressive acquisition spree left it deeply in debt.

Wang graduated from the Civil Aviation University of China with a degree in airline management and held an MBA from the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands.

However, the company's expansion was derailed by the Chinese government's decision to curb overseas investment by private conglomerates on order to cut financial risks. In June, HNA sold a bond in China after a rare five-month drought, signaling a crucial source of funding for the conglomerate may be opening up.

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