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Chinese tycoon dies in freak holiday fall in France

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    Agence France-Presse

Marseille, France | Wed, July 4, 2018 | 05:50 pm
 Chinese tycoon dies in freak holiday fall in France This file picture taken on October 23, 2012 shows then Chinese group HNA vice chairman and CEO Wang Jian posing before the signing of an agreement between Aigle Azur and HNA Aviation in Paris. Wang Jian, the chairman and co-founder of giant Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, has died in an accident in southern France, the firm said on July 4, 2018. (Agence France -Presse/Eric Piermont)

Chinese tycoon Wang Jian, whose sprawling conglomerate HNA Group owns a host of foreign assets, has died after a falling off a wall while on holiday in southern France, police and his company said Wednesday.

Wang suffered the fatal accident on Tuesday 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.

"He jumped up on to the wall and was carried over it by his own momentum," a source close to the case told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The 57-year-old businessman fell into a 10-metre (32-foot) void, sustaining serious injuries that emergency services were unable to treat at the site.

"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," his firm said in a statement issued in China. 

HNA Group started as a small provincial airline servicing China's Hainan Province but has expanded quickly in recent years under the leadership of Wang and co-founder Chen Feng.

The firm's $230 billion in assets includes a diverse global empire of businesses operating in aviation, tourism, and finance, and includes Hilton hotels and other marquee companies in the US, Europe and Australia.

But HNA came under pressure last year as Beijing cracked down on the risky debt-fuelled financing that enabled its expansion.

The conglomerate has now started selling off parts of its empire to pay down debt.

Wang began his career in civil aviation planning in 1983.

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

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