Markets

Chairman of Chinese conglomerate HNA Group dies in accident in France

Chairman of Chinese conglomerate HNA Group dies in accident in France

Chinese tycoon Wang Jian, whose sprawling conglomerate HNA Group owns a host of foreign assets, has died after a falling off a wall while sightseeing in southern France, police and his company said.

The company did not give the circumstances of Wang's death or provide an exact location.

Wang 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 the long-term impact on the group will be limited".

Wang was an inspirational figure at HNA and built the group into one of China's leading conglomerates after humble beginnings as a small provincial airline in Hainan Province.

"Wang's passing will mark the end of an era of aggressive expansion by HNA", Corrine Png, chief executive at the Singapore-based research firm Crucial Perspective, told the Bloomberg financial news agency. HNA said a year ago that its executives plan to donate all their shares to the Cihang charities that own a majority of HNA should they resign or die.

He was one of two chairmen of HNA Group, according to the company's website.




Wang was instrumental during HNA's era of empire-building and its subsequent dismantlement.

Wang, 57, is regarded as the architect of an eye-popping $50 billion acquisition spree that saw HNA accumulate assets ranging from a stake in Deutsche Bank AG to high-profile overseas properties.

Local police officer Hubert Meriaux also said that "witness accounts point to a likely accident" in the case: "He stood on the edge of a sharp drop to get his family to take a picture of him and fell". Police said they were not treating his death as suspicious.

HNA Group's logistics service unit CWT International Ltd dropped 5.5 percent to the lowest since April previous year, Hong Kong International Construction Investment Management Group slid 3.7 percent, and HNA Technology was down 2.4 percent.

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.

Since then, it has transformed into a Fortune 500 company, operating China's four-largest airline and acquiring a 25-percent stake in Hilton Worldwide chain of hotels.


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