HNA chairman Wang died falling off wall in France, says police source

Wang "accidentally fell causing serious injury, and attempts to rescue him were ineffective", the firm said in a statement.

Police said HNA Chairman Wang Jian died after falling from a wall at the village church in Bonnieux, southern France.

Thursday, July 5, the Chinese company Hainan Airlines (HNA) Group issued a statement which stressed that the sudden death of one of its founders will not affect the future development of HNA.

HNA Group co-chairman Wang Jian, 57, was regarded as the architect of an eye-popping $US50 billion acquisition spree that saw HNA accumulate assets ranging from a stake in Deutsche Bank to high-profile overseas properties. Subscribe to the Standard Group SMS service by texting "NEWS" to 22840.

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

Local police officer Hubert Meriaux also said that "witness accounts point to a likely accident" in the case: "He stood on the edge of a sharp drop to get his family to take a picture of him and fell". They added that their investigation so far suggested his death was an accident.

The turmoil deepened at HNA Group Co., the Chinese conglomerate that's been selling billions of dollars in assets to stay afloat, after its No. 2 executive died while touring southeastern France.

He played a vital role in the company's rise from a regional, state-controlled company to an enormous conglomerate.

The success of HNA can be attributed to the savviness of Mr Wang and Mr Chen but the future of this company might still, in part, depend on the government's policies.

The 57-year-old businessman was considered a driving force of the group that is worth more than $203 billion in assets.

Born in Tianjin, North China, he graduated from the Civil Aviation University of China, which was formerly the Civil Aviation Institute, with a bachelor's degree in airline management before going on to obtain an MBA from the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands. It also has finance, logistics and technology businesses.

The financial concerns have been easing in the last few months after a flurry of asset sales, including its $6 billion sale of Hilton Worldwide shares, helping many of HNA's bonds rebound from record lows. China's top leaders agreed to help HNA, people familiar with the matter said last month, providing much-needed relief for a company that couldn't generate enough profits previous year to pay interest expenses.

Vanessa Coleman