Wang Jian: China's HNA Group boss falls to his death in France


He and his co-founder Chen Feng transformed HNA (Hainan Airlines) into one of China's most acquisitive companies, with more than $230bn (£175bn) in assets and a huge amount of debt.

Chinese aviation-to-financial conglomerate HNA Group rattled capital markets Wednesday with news that co-founder and Chairman Wang Jian accidentally fell and died during a business trip in France.

"HNA Group extends deepest condolences to Mr. Wang's family and many friends".

He said Mr Wang fell some 15m (50ft).

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.

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

However, the company's ownership structure has always been complex and murky.

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Hong Kong-listed CWT, a Singaporean commodities and logistics group acquired by HNA in late 2017, fell as much as 7.4% during the day before closing down 5.6%.

Wang Jian, 57, had climbed on a high parapet to take photographs in the picturesque village of Bonnieux when he fell, police said.

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

According to Reuters, Wang was considered to be a leader of "reactionary forces" by Western media referring to his harsh criticism of the Chinese Communist Party and President Xi Jingpin.

The Chinese company employs over 400,000 people worldwide. No additional details were divulged by HNA. Numerous companies also came under scrutiny for their opaque ownership structures.

Born in Tianjin, North China, he graduated from the Civil Aviation University of China, which was formerly the Civil Aviation Institute, with a bachelor's degree in airline management before going on to obtain an MBA from the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands. The conglomerate now has more than 10 airlines among its affiliated companies.

Following its now-infamous acquisition spree, the group's financial struggles began to emerge in the middle of previous year, when the Chinese government began scrutinising high-profile acquirers such as HNA, Dalian Wanda Group and Anbang Insurance Group. In June, HNA sold a bond in China after a rare five-month drought, signaling a crucial source of funding for the conglomerate may be opening up.