WANG JIAN, THE co-chairman of HNA Group, the China-based company that has become a major investor in the U.S. and international hotel industry, died Tuesday in an accidental fall in France. His death leaves open the question of what will happen to the company’s leadership structure and Wang’s 15 percent interest in it.
Wang, 57, was on a business trip in Provence, France, when the accident occurred, according to the obituary on the company’s website. According to a New York Times article, he was with his family visiting Bonnieux, a church on a rock outcrop, and was trying to pose for a photo when he fell backward over a 10 or 15 meter cliff. No foul play is suspected.
“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,” HNA Group co-founder and Chairman Chen Feng and CEO Adam Tan said in the obituary.
Radisson Hotel Group, which HNA acquired in 2016, featured a similar statement on Wang’s death in a brief pop up for visitors to its site Thursday. Earlier this week, Radisson announced a new initiative with its fellow HNA Group member Hainan Airlines that would align the two company’s loyalty programs.
“We are deeply saddened by the news of HNA Group’s Co-Chairman Wang Jian’s passing. On behalf of Radisson Hotel Group team members worldwide, our thoughts and prayers are with the family and loved ones of Mr. Wang Jian and our colleagues at HNA Group.”
An HNA company spokesman Thursday could not say how Wang’s death will affect the company’s leadership, nor how his stock in the company would be handled, but said they would have more details “in the near future.”
Wang’s death also comes at a time when, according to press reports including the story in the Times, the company is facing $90 billion in debt following its investment splurge in financial firms, hotels, real estate and other investments around the world. The Times said HNA was looking into selling off at least some of the assets it had acquired.
An article in Bloomberg said Radisson may be one of those assets on the chopping block, but John Kidd, chief executive of Radisson’s operations in the Americas and Asia Pacific, downplayed that possibility. “While it has been widely reported that HNA has recently been exploring the sale of some of its assets, we are in a very strong place with our business and remain committed to our go-forward strategy,” Kidd said in a statement. “Any additional questions about a potential sale would need to be answered by HNA.”