Chairman of Giant Chinese Conglomerate Dies in Fall

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The co-founder and chairman of giant Chinese conglomerate, HNA Group, has died in a fall in southern France, his company has confirmed.

HNA is now in the process of selling down some of its global assets in a bid to reduce its domestic debt built up during a rapid expansion in recent years.

Wang fell 15 meters off a wall in the village of Bonnieux, near Avignon, a picturesque area popular with tourists, lieutenant-colonel Hubert Meriaux of the Vaucluse gendarmerie force told Reuters.

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

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

Wang, the second-highest ranking executive at the group, owned about 15 percent of the Chinese conglomerate, making him one of the group's biggest shareholders, according to HNA's last update of its ownership structure. In recent months, the Group has been forced to get rid of its acquisitions as it parted with its 25 per cent stake in Spain's NH Hotel Group for US$726 million and sold an office tower in Minneapolis, Minnesota for US$320 million. An autopsy conducted Wednesday morning didn't reveal anything suspicious in his death, he said. 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.

Mr Wang owned about 15 per cent of HNA, according to the group's last update of its ownership structure.

Following its now-infamous acquisition spree, the group's financial struggles began to emerge in the middle of past year, when the Chinese government began scrutinizing high-profile acquirers such as HNA, Dalian Wanda Group Co. and Anbang Insurance Group Co.

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"It will also put HNA Group and related companies' restructuring plans back on the drawing board, in our view", Png added.

Wang began his career in civil aviation planning in 1983.

HNA responded to news of Mr Wang's death by saying: "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".

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