Boss of China's HNA conglomerate dies in French accident, firm says

Wang Jian was chairman of the HNA Group which amassed $230 billion in assets across its aviation tourism and finance businessesMore

Wang Jian was chairman of the HNA Group which amassed $230 billion in assets across its aviation tourism and finance businessesMore

Chairman of the Board of Directors and co-founder of the conglomerate Hainan Airlines (HNA) Group has fallen with 15-metre wall.

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.

Wang spearheaded the group's expansion in recent years, when it spent more $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. It called Wang "an exceptionally gifted leader and role model". Mr. Wang started his career as an aviation official and co-founded HNA with Mr. Chen more than two decades ago.

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.

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"If HNA simply can not meet its financial obligations, we expect regulators to broker a debt restructuring", Michael Hirson, the Asia director of the consultancy Eurasia Group, said back in February. A deal in which HNA would purchase an Australian logistics company for $207m fell through this week over "liquidity problems" at HNA.

The HNA Group Chairman Wang Jian suffered a 50 foot fall and died of resulting injuries, Reuters reports.

Last year, Beijing set its sight on HNA during a crackdown on risky financing, which had long fueled expansion for Chinese companies. Under pressure from Beijing, HNA has since sold off many of those assets to slash debt.

He didn't just focus on the big picture, according to one of the people.

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"Wang's passing will mark the end of an era", said Corrine Png, CEO at Crucial Perspective Pte., a Singapore-based research firm focused on transportation.

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.

His death complicates the troubled conglomerate's efforts to restructure and pay off borrowings, and could increase pressure on HNA to reveal more about its oft-criticized opaque ownership.

Concerns about HNA's financial situation mounted in the ensuing months. This explains why HNA's dollar bonds fell after the company confirmed the news of his death.

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