BEIJING • China's HNA Group said yesterday that Mr Wang Jian, a chairman and co-founder, has died during a business trip in France.
HNA, one of China's most acquisitive conglomerates, which has been selling assets to slash debt, said Mr Wang, 57, suffered a fall on Tuesday in Provence and received medical treatment but did not recover.
A police source in France said Mr Wang died after a 10m fall off a wall while trying to take photos in the village of Bonnieux, near Avignon.
"He tried to climb a low wall to see the view and take pictures," the source said.
After failing a first time, Mr Wang took a run up. "He fell over the top and dropped 10m."
HNA, based on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, is best known as the owner of Hainan Airlines and for its stakes in Deutsche Bank and Hilton Worldwide.
Mr Wang, who held a stake of just under 15 per cent in the group, was in charge of its strategy and ran its day-to-day operations, sources familiar with the matter said, while his fellow chairman, Mr Chen Feng, was often the public face of the conglomerate.
"HNA Group extends deepest condolences to Mr Wang's family and many friends," HNA's board and management team said in a statement yesterday.
"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, as well as for the many others whose lives he touched through his work and philanthropy."
Mr Wang had told employees earlier this year that the company's difficulties were the result of a "major conspiracy" against the ruling Communist Party and Chinese President Xi Jinping by foreign and domestic "reactionary forces", according to an internally distributed e-mail.
However, the embattled group appeared to have won a reprieve of sorts recently, when at a meeting held by China's central bank, lenders were told to "support" HNA bonds, Bloomberg and the Financial Times reported last month.