Chinese tycoon Wang Jian dies from fall in France

Wang Jian of HNA Group

AFPWang Jian has died during a business trip in France

The aviation-to-financial services conglomerate's Co-Chairman Wang Jian died during a business trip in France on July 3 in what local police said appeared to be an accidental fall from a wall while posing for a photograph.

HNA went on a major buying spree in recent years, snapping up big chunks of major USA and European companies - including Deutsche Bank (DB) and Hilton (HLT).

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.

HNA said Wang, whose personal fortune is estimated at $1.7 billion by Forbes magazine, had been visiting Bonnieux during a business trip to France.

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.

Bonnieux is a medieval village in the Provence area of the south of France, a favored destination for the rich and famous over the peak summer holiday period.

"He stood on the edge of a sharp drop to get his family to take a picture of him and fell", he said. The death isn't being viewed as suspicious, the officer said.

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According to various sources, he fell between 12m (39ft) and 15m (49ft).

Another friend of Wang's who dined with him a month ago, told Caixin that Wang said during the meal that he had been having heart problems and that his blood pressure had been unstable.

For a co-founder of a regional airline in China, Wang Jian's rise to prominence in global business might come as a surprise to many.

To many on China's internet, his death seems to have triggered curiosity.

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.

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.

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.

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