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

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

The 57-year-old on Tuesday “accidentally fell causing serious injury, and attempts to rescue him were ineffective,” the HNA board said in a brief statement.

Wang Jian

Wang Jian. File photo: Eric Piermont/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,” the firm said.

No further details of the circumstances surrounding Wang’s death were given.

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.

The firm’s US$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.

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