Top Chinese executive dies after falling from wall in France

Roman Schwartz
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.

'Witness accounts point to a likely accident, ' Mr Meriaux said, adding that an autopsy would be carried out to determine the cause of death, Reuters reported.

Mr Wang helped turn HNA into one of the world's biggest companies, with assets in aviation, tourism and finance.

Wang spearheaded the group's expansion in recent years, when it spent more US$40 billion snapping up trophy assets and became the largest shareholder in worldwide giants like Deutsche Bank AG and Hilton, according to people close to HNA.

"HNA Group extends deepest condolences to Mr. Wang's family and many friends", HNA's board and management team said in a statement.

"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.

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Shares of jewelry maker Hifood Group Holdings, an indirect unit of HNA Group, fell 11 percent on Thursday to all-time lows, leading the slide in Hong Kong-listed stocks related to HNA whose co-chairman died in an accident two days ago. An HNA representative couldn't immediately comment.

Mr Wang graduated from the Civil Aviation University of China and received an MBA from the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands, according to his company. He and his co-founder Chen Feng transformed HNA (Hainan Airlines) into one of China's most acquisitive companies, with more than $230bn (£175bn) in assets and a huge amount of debt.

Launched in 1993 on the southern island of Hainan, HNA expanded into finance, hotels, logistics and other businesses in a multibillion-dollar global acquisition spree in recent years. Borrowing costs soared as its interim report showed the conglomerate paid the highest interest expense among non-financial companies in Asia, a trend that continued through 2017.

Concerns about HNA's financial situation mounted in the ensuing months.

However, the deal had looked increasingly uncertain because of liquidity problems that have seen HNA shed more than $20 billion of assets to pay down debt.

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