China's HNA Group co-chairman Wang Jian dies after fall in France

Wang Jian

Modal Trigger Wang Jian AFP Getty Images

Chinese conglomerate HNA group on Wednesday said that Wang Jian, the firm's chairman and co-founder, died during a business trip in the south of France.

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.

Thursday, July 5, the Chinese company Hainan Airlines (HNA) Group issued a statement which stressed that the sudden death of one of its founders will not affect the future development of HNA.

Wang fell more than 160 ft. off a wall in the village of Bonnieux, near Avignon.

Police are not treating Wang's death as suspicious.

The Chairman of the multi-billion conglomerate was posing for a photo on the edge of a 50 foot drop when he slipped and fell to his death.

Wang (pictured) held a stake of about 15 per cent in the group and managed day-to-day operations.

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The company started as a small provincial airline servicing China's Hainan Province but has expanded quickly in recent years under the leadership of Wang and business partner Chen Feng.

Under pressure to deleverage, HNA has been divesting assets, including real estate as well as stakes in Deutsche Bank and Hilton Worldwide Holdings.

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

After spending more than $40 billion on a buying spree, it become the largest shareholder in companies such as Deutsche Bank AG and Hilton.

"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.

Wang obtained an undergraduate degree in Aviation Management from Civil Aviation University of China in 1983, and a master's degree in business administration from Holland Maastricht School of Management in 1995, according to HNA.

On paper these are all solid companies with shiny brand names, while HNA had assets hovering around the $80 billion mark, the Financial Times reported in 2016. HNA's financial struggles began to emerge in the middle of previous year, when its interim report showed the conglomerate paid the highest interest expense among non-financial companies in Asia. HNA Group operates in the airline industry, tourism, Finance, logistics, scientific developments and the industrial sector.

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