China's HNA Group co-chairman Wang Jian dies after fall in France

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China's HNA Group co-chairman Wang Jian dies after fall in France

Wang was an inspirational figure at HNA and built the group into one of China's leading conglomerates after humble beginnings as a small provincial airline in Hainan Province.

But it racked up huge debts in the process and has since reversed course, selling assets to ease financial pressures as authorities in China cracked down on aggressive overseas deal-making by Chinese companies. An autopsy conducted Wednesday morning didn't reveal anything suspicious in his death, he said.

Wang suffered the fatal accident yesterday in the picturesque hillside village of Bonnieux after climbing onto a parapet, either to see the view of the valley below or to have his photograph taken, local security sources told AFP.

"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.

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

Wang told employees earlier this year that the company's difficulties were the result of a "major conspiracy" against the ruling Communist Party and President Xi Jinping by foreign and domestic "reactionary forces", according to an internally-distributed email.

Although he is not as well-known as Mr Chen in media, Mr Wang is said to have taken a hands-on approach to running the company.

HNA Group, in which Wang held a 15 percent stake, has confirmed the death of its chairman and switched its official website to monochrome in his honor.

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

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

Last year, as Beijing started to curb financial risks posed by such debt-ridden conglomerates, HNA had to embark on a selling spree to pay down its debt.

Wang graduated from the Civil Aviation University of China with a degree in airline management and held an MBA from the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands. Also in attendance were executives at Glencore Plc, which hours later announced the US$775 million sale of a majority stake in its oil storage and logistics business to HNA.

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