Published: Fri, July 06, 2018
Business | By Eloise Houston

HNA co-founder falls to his death

HNA co-founder falls to his death

HNA Group Co, the once-acquisitive Chinese conglomerate, said that its co-chairman Wang Jian died after an accident on Tuesday (July 3) in France.

Chinese HNA group chairman Wang Jian fell to his death while visiting the southern France village of Bonnieux yesterday, a French police source told Reuters.

The 57-year-old had been trying to take photographs in the village of Bonnieux, near Avignon, when he fell 32ft off a wall.

Wang died after a 10 metre fall off a wall, the source said.

"Wang's passing will mark the end of an era of aggressive expansion by HNA", said Corrine Png, chief executive officer at Crucial Perspective Pte., a Singapore-based research firm focused on transportation.

The Chairman of the multi-billion conglomerate was posing for a photo on the edge of a 50 foot drop when he slipped and fell to his death.

HNA Group issued the following statement: "HNA Group extends deepest condolences to Mr. Wang's family and many friends".

The company's website was changed to the color grey on Wednesday morning as a gesture of respect to Wang.

HNA, under Wang and his business partner, grew from being a small airline based in China's Hainan Province to a company with $230bn in assets including significant stakes in companies such as Hilton Hotels and Deutsche Bank.

HNA has recently been selling off its holdings in hotel companies including Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., Park Hotels & Resorts and Spain's NH Hotels. The pair built what was originally a regional Chinese airline into one of the country's largest privately held conglomerates with interests in multiple airlines, hotels, financial institutions and other assets in China and overseas.

The success of HNA can be attributed to the savviness of Mr Wang and Mr Chen but the future of this company might still, in part, depend on the government's policies. Most notably, the company announced that its largest shareholder, a mysterious businessman named Guan Jun, had donated his 30 percent stake in the company to a charitable organization.

Wang, a devout Buddhist, set a goal for HNA to become one of the top companies in the Fortune 500, arguing it would be the most efficient way to raise its profile, one of the people said. His percentage will be split between the NY and Hainan branches of the Hainan Cihang Charity Foundation, according to the pledge all stakeholders were obligated to sign.

Wang's sudden death just adds more fuel to these conspiracy theories, even though there is no substantial reason to suspect foul play.

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