Chinese billionaire Wang Jian dies after posing for photo in France

By @chelean on
Wang Jian, Co-Chairman of HNA Group attends a meeting marking the 20th anniversary of company's founding in Haikou, Hainan province, China, April 28, 2013. Picture taken April 28, 2013.
Wang Jian, Co-Chairman of HNA Group attends a meeting marking the 20th anniversary of company's founding in Haikou, Hainan province, China, April 28, 2013. Picture taken April 28, 2013. Reuters/Stringer

A Chinese billionaire has died after posing for a photo in France. Wang Jian, the co-founder of the conglomerate HNA group, fell 15 metres onto rocks off a wall in the village of Bonnieux on Tuesday.

Police said Wang, 57, climbed on a high parapet to take photos when he fell. He sustained serious injuries, with rescue services unable to revive him. The village is a picturesque area popular with tourists.

“He stood on the edge of a sharp drop to get his family to take a picture of him and fell,” lieutenant-colonel Hubert Meriaux of the Vaucluse gendarmerie said (via Independent). Witness accounts said his death was “likely an accident.”

His widow was expected to arrive in the village on Wednesday.

Wang, as co-chairman of HNA, was the second-highest ranking executive of the company. He had helped turn the company into one of the world’s biggest. HNA Group has businesses in various industries, including aviation, real estate, logistics, tourism and more.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

Wang reportedly had a net worth of US$1.7 billion ($2.3 billion). He and fellow chairman and co-founder Chen Feng were the largest shareholders of the company, each owning 15 percent shares. HNA Group said that all individual shareholders, including Wang, “have pledged to donate all of their shares to two charitable organisations — Hainan Cihang Charity Foundation and Hainan Province Cihang Foundang — upon resignation or death,” South China Morning Post reports. The organisations hold a 52.25 percent take, according to the company statement in July 2017.

HNA Group is currently selling down some of its international assets to reduce its domestic debt, which was accrued during its rapid expansion in recent years.