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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Wang Jian, chairman of giant China firm HNA, dies in fall from wall

Company confirms co-founder, 57, killed in accident in southern France

Chinese group HNA chairman Wang Jian. The co-founder of $230bn Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, has died in an accident. Eric Piermont/AFP
Chinese group HNA chairman Wang Jian. The co-founder of $230bn Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, has died in an accident. Eric Piermont/AFP

Wang Jian, the chairman and co-founder of giant Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, has died in an accident in southern France, the company said on Wednesday.

The 57-year-old on Tuesday "accidentally fell causing serious injury, and attempts to rescue him were ineffective", the HNA board said, according to AFP.

"Together, we mourn the loss of an exceptionally gifted leader and role model, whose vision and values will continue to be a beacon for all who had the good fortune to know him," HNA said.

HNA gave no further details of the circumstances surrounding Wang's death, but a source told Reuters he died after a 10-metre fall from a wall.

"He tried to climb a low wall to see the view and take pictures," the source said. After failing a first time, Wang took a run-up. "He fell over the top and dropped 10 metres."

HNA Group started as a small provincial airline servicing China's Hainan Province but has expanded quickly in recent years under the leadership of Wang and co-founder Chen Feng, AFP said.

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The company's $230 billion in assets includes a diverse global empire of businesses operating in aviation, tourism and finance, and includes Hilton hotels and other marquee companies in the US, Europe and Australia.

But HNA came under pressure last year as Beijing cracked down on the risky debt-fuelled financing that enabled its expansion.

The conglomerate has now started selling off parts of its empire to pay down debt.

Wang began his career in civil aviation planning in 1983.