Wang Jian, 57, the co-chair of a Chinese company that owns a 20 per cent stake in Virgin Australia, has died in an accident during a business trip to France.
Wang apparently fell from a wall while posing for a photograph in the village of Bonnieux, near Avignon.
Lieutenant-colonel Hubert Meriaux of the Vaucluse gendarmerie force told Reuters that he fell 15 meters off a wall overlooking a cliff.
"He stood on the edge of a sharp drop to get his family to take a picture of him and fell," says Meriaux.
Wang, the co-chairman of HNA Group, was regarded as the architect of a $US50 billion acquisition spree that saw HNA accumulate assets ranging from a stake in Deutsche Bank to high-profile overseas properties.
Following the acquisition spree the company has sold off many of the assets to slash debt.
New Zealand regulators recently blocked HNA's attempt to buy ANZ's UDC Finance unit, and the company this week cited cashflow problems when it cancelled its $280 million purchase of ASX-listed Automotive Holdings Group's refrigerated trucking arm.
Wang's death complicates the Chinese company's efforts to restructure and pay off borrowings.
Wang held a 15 per cent stake in HNA which is controlled by a New York-based foundation and a Chinese-based charity that together hold 52 per cent of HNA shares.
Shareholders have promised that in the event of death they would pass their stake in HNA to the New York charity fund according to Reuters, though it is not clear how binding these promises were.
Business News Australia
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