Wang Jian (businessman)

Wang Jian
Tianjin, China
Died3 July 2018(2018-07-03) (aged 56–57)
Bonnieux, Provence, France
Cause of deathAllegedly accidental fall
Alma materCivil Aviation University of China,
Maastricht School of Management
OccupationBusiness executive
Known forCo-founder and co-chairman of Hainan Airlines and HNA Group
RelativesWang Wei (brother)
Chinese name

Wang Jian (Chinese: 王健; 1961 – 3 July 2018) was a Chinese entrepreneur and billionaire. Together with Chen Feng, he was co-founder and co-chairman of Hainan Airlines and the affiliated conglomerate HNA Group, with assets worth US$230 billion in 2018. HNA was the world's 170th largest company by revenue in 2017 according to Fortune Global 500. Wang and Chen were HNA’s largest individual shareholders, with each owning about 15% of the company. He died from a likely accidental[1] fall[2][3][4] while travelling in France in July 2018.


Wang was born in Tianjin in 1961. He graduated from Civil Aviation University of China in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in aviation business management, and worked for the Civil Aviation Administration of China afterwards. He later received training at Japan Airlines on a scholarship from the Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship (AOTS), and earned an MBA from the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands in 1995.[5]

In 1990, Wang participated in the establishment of Hainan Airlines, based in Hainan province, and became the new company's chief executive. Together with partner Chen Feng, Wang also founded the conglomerate HNA Group, which grew to become the world's 170th largest company according to Fortune Global 500, with total revenue of US$53 billion in 2017.[5][6]

Chen acted as the public face of the company, while Wang was a hands-on manager with a lower public profile.[7] Both men were instrumental in HNA's phenomenal transformation from a small airline to a global conglomerate with assets worth US$230 billion, including major stakes in Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Deutsche Bank, NH Hotel Group, and ownership of Ingram Micro.[8] However, HNA's acquisition spree was substantially funded by debt, which had reached US$90 billion in 2018, and it was working to sell billions of dollars of assets to reduce its debt load at the time of Wang's accidental death.[8]

Wang and Chen were the largest individual shareholders of HNA, with each owning about 15% of the company as of 2017,[7] making them two of the richest people in China.[8] In addition to his responsibilities at HNA, Wang also taught as a part-time professor at his alma mater, Civil Aviation University of China.[5]


Wang Jian had a younger brother, Wang Wei, who has played a key behind-the-scenes role at HNA Group.[9]


In July 2018, Wang made a business trip in France.[10] On 3 July, he took a sightseeing detour with his colleagues in Bonnieux, a hilltop village in the region of Provence. He climbed onto a low wall above a cliff to have his picture taken, but lost his balance and fell backward, landing on rocks about 15 metres (49 ft) below.[7][8] He was pronounced dead a few hours later.[5]

According to French media reports, eye-witnesses of the incident said that Wang died by jumping off the wall.[11][12] But French police denied these claims.

Wang's death was a blow to HNA, which was in the midst of selling its foreign assets to reduce its debt load,[8][13] and the prices of the company's dollar bonds fell after his death was confirmed.[14] Hainan Airlines along with other airlines from HNA Group changed its website to a gray color scheme to honour his death.[8]


  1. ^ "Chinese billionaire falls to his death trying to pose for a picture on trip to France". The Independent. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  2. ^ Kennedy, Dana (6 July 2018). "A Chinese Billionaire's Fatal Fall in France: Case Not Quite Closed". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  3. ^ Lee, Se Young. "China's HNA Chairman Wang dies in France after falling from a wall". U.S. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  4. ^ "Chinese Tycoon Wang Jian Accidentally Falls To Death In France". Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d 海航集团联合创始人、董事长王健意外离世 [Wang Jian, co-founder and chairman of HNA Group, passed away]. Phoenix Chinese News (in Chinese). 4 July 2018. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  6. ^ "China's HNA boss Wang Jian's death in France likely an accident". Deutsche Welle. 4 July 2018. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Chen, Laurie (4 July 2018). "HNA Group chairman Wang Jian dies in 15m fall onto French rocks". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Stevenson, Alexandra (4 July 2018). "Wang Jian, Co-Founder of Chinese Giant HNA, Dies in France". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  9. ^ Barboza, David (27 March 2018). "Behind the Rise of China's HNA: The Chairman's Brother". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  10. ^ Lee, Se Young; Rosnoblet, Jean-Francois (4 July 2018). "China's HNA Chairman Wang dies in France after falling from a wall". Reuters. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  11. ^ "Chinese tycoon dies in freak fall in France". France 24. 4 July 2018. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  12. ^ "French police rubbish claim that death of China's HNA executive was deliberate". Reuters. 31 January 2019. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  13. ^ Kuo, Lily (4 July 2018). "Chinese tycoon Wang Jian dies from fall in France". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  14. ^ Ni, Vincent (4 July 2018). "Chinese tycoon dies from fall in France". BBC News. Retrieved 4 July 2018.