HNA Group

HNA Group appoints Chen Feng as chairman, elevating the co-founder to top role following tragic death of Wang Jian

Chen Feng will take the helm of the Chinese conglomerate, a role that he had formerly shared with Wang Jian, who died in a tragic accident in France earlier this week. Wang’s equity in HNA expected to revert to controlling charities

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2018, 12:46pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2018, 12:48pm

Chinese conglomerate HNA Group has announced that co-founder Chen Feng will become chairman of the company, assuming the duties of former co-chairman Wang Jian, who died earlier this week during a trip to France after falling 15 metres onto rocks in an accident.

Chen, who held the post of co-chairman along with Wang, was appointed by the board after a meeting on Thursday, the company said in a statement on Friday.

HNA didn’t provide further details on Friday about how to deal with Wang’s equity stake in the company after his death, although the company said in a statement last year Wang has “pledged to donate all of his shares … upon resignation or death” to the two charitable organisations that currently control HNA.

Wang was one of the largest shareholders of the company, holding a 15 per cent stake. The 57-year-old died from injuries earlier this week in the village of Bonnieux in the Provence region, according to local police.

HNA Group chairman Wang Jian dies in 15-metre fall onto rocks while posing for a photo in France

Wang fell 15 metres onto rocks after climbing onto a “small wall” for a photograph before losing balance, the police said.

HNA Group, co-founded by Chen and Wang in 1993 in Hainan, is one of the fastest growing companies on Fortune’s Global 500 list of the world’s largest corporations. It has aggressively pushed into overseas markets in recent years, snapping up about US$40 billion worth of properties, hotels, and stakes in financial companies.

But questions have also abounded surrounding the ultimate owner of the privately-owned company, which has funded its global acquisition spree with billions of dollars of debt.

In a statement released last July, the company said Wang and Chen, along with two charitable organisations, owned the majority of the stake.

Hainan Cihang Charity Foundation and Hainan Province Cihang Foundation (known as the Cihang Foundation) together hold a 52.25 per cent stake in HNA, the parent of Hainan Airlines.

Wang and Chen each owned a 15 per cent stake.

The company said in the statement that all individual shareholders including Wang and Chen “have pledged to donate all of their shares to the two charitable organisations upon resignation or death”. HNA expects the Cihang Foundation will one day own 100 per cent of the group.

Since late last year, HNA has been offloading assets to lower debt after mainland regulators ordered HNA and other acquisitive companies like Anbang Group and Dalian Wanda Group to unwind their highly leveraged positions.

The company has unloaded stakes in Hilton Worldwide Holdings for US$1.1 billion, a 25 per cent stake in Spain’s NH Hotel Group for US$726 million and an office tower in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for US$320 million.

HNA chairman Wang Jian’s death may accelerate firm’s sale of overseas assets, say analysts

With additional reporting by Peggy Sito and Laurie Chen.