HNA Says Co-Chairman Wang Jian Died After Accident in France

Wang Jian of HNA Group

The statement said the company extends its deepest condolences to Mr. Wang's family and friends.

"He stood on the edge of a sharp drop to get his family to take a picture of him and fell", a local police chief Hubert Meriaux said, according to Reuters news agency.

The company did not give the circumstances of Wang's death or provide an exact location.

Wang's death couldn't have come at a worse time, said Brock Silvers, founder and managing director of Kaiyuan Capital, a Shanghai-based investment advisory firm.

"Witness accounts point to a likely accident", Lt-Col Meriaux said, adding that an autopsy would be carried out to determine the cause of death.

HNA, the owner of Hainan Airlines, once symbolised the appetite of Chinese companies for assets outside of China.

Sources close to the company said Wang took a hands-on approach to running the company although Chen tended to be its public face.

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After years of empire-building, the company that once symbolized China's insatiable appetite for global assets has reversed course, selling more than $14 billion of buildings and shares, including its multibillion-dollar stake in Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.

"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", HNA stated.

Mr Wang was reported to be among a group of tourists who were visiting Bonnieux, in the Vaucluse area of Provence. 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.

Wang graduated from the Civil Aviation University of China and received an MBA from the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands, according to his company. The website was rendered grey in a gesture of mourning.

Chinese group HNA Chairman Wang Jian and Pierre et Vacances Chairman Gerard Bremond shake hands during a signing ceremony in Paris on July 4, 2016.

HNA Group's logistics service unit CWT International Ltd dropped 5.5 percent to the lowest since April previous year, Hong Kong International Construction Investment Management Group slid 3.7 percent, and HNA Technology was down 2.4 percent.

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