China's HNA Group says co-chairman has died in France

07 July, 2018, 09:57 | Author: Mary Valdez
  • Wang Jian

Wang Jian, a co-founder of the company, suffered "severe injuries" in a fall in Provence in southern France and died Tuesday at age 57, said an HNA Group statement.

Wang, who was on a business trip, had a fall from which he couldn't recover, HNA said in a statement on its website. 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.

One of China's most acquisitive companies, HNA has been under heavy financial and regulatory pressure since a year ago because of its heavy debt load. Subscribe to the Standard Group SMS service by texting "NEWS" to 22840. Police said they were not treating his death as suspicious.

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According to HNA documents, Wang and Chen each held around 15% in HNA as the biggest individual shareholders.

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The 57-year-old defied this stereotype.

Wang 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. Earlier this week, HNA also gave up on the idea of buying the refrigerated trucking arm of Australia's Automotive Holdings Group due to reported cash flow problems. Other HNA units traded in Hong Kong tumbled as much as 2.2%, with the exception of Tianjin Tianhai Investment Co., which rebounded to close up almost 0.7% after slumping nearly 2% in the morning.

The group is controlled by a New York-based foundation and a China-based charity that together hold 52 per cent of HNA shares.

Born in Tianjin, North China, he graduated from the Civil Aviation University of China, which was formerly the Civil Aviation Institute, with a bachelor's degree in airline management before going on to obtain an MBA from the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands.

As co-founders, he and Chen transformed a regional airline based in China's tropical island province of Hainan into a conglomerate with US$230 billion in assets. Last year, regulators in New Zealand blocked HNA from purchasing a auto loan company out of concern over the company's financial stability. In June, HNA sold a bond in China after a rare five-month drought, signalling a crucial source of funding for the conglomerate may be opening up.

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