China's HNA Group Chairman Wang dies after fall in France

Ivan Schwartz
July 6, 2018

More recently, HNA has been selling some assets as Chinese regulators tighten lending controls and press companies to rein in debt.

Chinese HNA group chairman Wang Jian fell to his death while visiting the southern France village of Bonnieux on Tuesday, a French police source told Reuters.

An aviation-to-financial services conglomerate that counts Hainan Airlines as its core asset, HNA's recent sales include holdings in companies such as Hilton Worldwide, Park Hotels & Resorts and Spain's NH Hotels.

HNA Group has expressed condolences to the family and friends of Wang Jian. It called Wang "an exceptionally gifted leader and role model".

The success of HNA can be attributed to the savviness of Mr Wang and Mr Chen but the future of this company might still, in part, depend on the government's policies. His death may complicate HNA's efforts to restructure assets and pay off debts after years of reckless spending. Chen also holds a 15 per cent stake. Eventually, HNA expects the foundations to own 100 per cent of the group, the company said at the time.

Earlier this week, HNA was also forced to terminate a $400 million deal with Australia's Automative Holdings Group for their refrigerated logistics and trucking arm, with AHG citing HNAs cashflow options as the cause of the breakdown.

A police source in France said Wang had died after a 10 meter fall off a wall while trying to take photographs in the village of Bonnieux, near Avignon.

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Last year, Beijing set its sight on HNA during a crackdown on risky financing, which had long fueled expansion for Chinese companies.

Wang Jian was 57.

Most of HNA's Shenzhen and Shanghai-listed subsidiaries have been suspended since late past year amid the company's efforts to restructure assets for debt relief.

He didn't just focus on the big picture, according to one of the people. No additional details were divulged by HNA.

"Wang's passing will mark the end of an era", said Corrine Png, CEO at Crucial Perspective, a Singapore-based research firm focused on transportation. Numerous companies also came under scrutiny for their opaque ownership structures.

Wang had a degree in airline management from the Civil Aviation University of China and an MBA from the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands. The conglomerate now has more than 10 airlines among its affiliated companies.

HNA's individual shareholders have promised to give their stakes to the NY charity fund in case of leaving the company or death, according to the document. In January, as the volume of news about HNA's liquidity issues were peaking, it suspended six of its listed stocks from trading.

Other reports by GizPress

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