HNA says co-chairman Wang Jian died after accident in France

HNA Group Co. Co-Chairman Wang Jian. (Bloomberg pic)

HONG KONG: HNA Group Co., the once-acquisitive Chinese conglomerate that’s been selling billions of dollars in assets this year, said that Co-Chairman Wang Jian died after an accident on Tuesday in Provence, France. He was 57.

Wang, who was on a business trip, had a fall from which he couldn’t recover, HNA said in a statement on its website, which didn’t provide further details. HNA representatives declined to comment beyond public statements.

Wang’s sudden death comes at a time that the group, one of China’s most indebted companies, is seeking to recover from soaring borrowing costs after years of debt-fueled expansion. HNA has sold more than US$14 billion in assets this year, including its multi-billion-dollar stake in Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.

Wang owned about 15% of the Chinese conglomerate, making him one of the group’s biggest shareholders, according to HNA’s last update of its ownership structure. HNA’s other co-chairman, Chen Feng, also holds a 15% stake.

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. In 1990, he helped establish Hainan Provincial Airlines Co. and was one of the founders of the group.

“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, as well as for the many others whose lives he touched through his work and philanthropy,” HNA said in a Business Wire statement.