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Published: Sat, July 07, 2018
Economy | By Melissa Porter

HNA chairman Wang Jian died falling off wall in France

HNA chairman Wang Jian died falling off wall in France

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.

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.

"HNA Group extends deepest condolences to Mr. Wang's family and many friends", HNA said in a statement. Among other businesses, the conglomerate owns Hainan Airlines, golf courses and up to 25% in Hilton hotel group and Deutsche Bank shares worth around $40 billion.

Under pressure from Beijing, HNA has since sold off many of those assets to slash debt. Subscribe to the Standard Group SMS service by texting "NEWS" to 22840. "Together, we mourn the loss of an exceptionally gifted leader and role model", the company said in a statement. Wang Jian suffered 15 meters fall, while posing for a photograph, the police said.

Wang lost his balance as he attempted to climb onto a retaining wall next to a rock at the highest point in Bonnieux, a scenic village, said Lieutenant-Colonel Hubert Meriaux, a police officer in nearby Avignon.

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The company also published its website in monochrome as an apparent mark of respect.

Wang held a 15 per cent stake in HNA. 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. HNA Group operates in the airline industry, tourism, Finance, logistics, scientific developments and the industrial sector. The company is also 30% owned by a New York-based foundation and 23% controlled by a China-based charity. The group's origins lie in the launch in 1993 by Mr Wang, a graduate of China's Civil Aviation University, of Hainan Airlines, a regional Chinese carrier. 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. Last year, regulators in New Zealand blocked HNA from purchasing a vehicle loan company out of concern over the company's financial stability.

Concerns about HNA's financial situation mounted in the ensuing months. In January, as the volume of news about HNA's liquidity issues were peaking, it suspended six of its listed stocks from trading. The seller cited cashflow problems at HNA as a factor.

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