HNA Group co-founder Wang Jian. Photo: AFP / Eric Piermont

Wang Jian, the chairman and co-founder of giant Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, has died in an accident in southern France. The 57-year-old “accidentally fell causing serious injury, and attempts to rescue him were ineffective,” the HNA board said in a report from AFP on Wednesday.

“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,” HNA stated.

The Chinese corporation declined to reveal further details, but it is believed he fell from a 10-meter wall in the village of Bonnieux in Provence while on a business trip to France, according to the BBC. “He tried to climb a low wall to see the view and take pictures,” a source said.

Wang was an inspirational figure at HNA and built the group into one of China’s leading conglomerates after humble beginnings as a small provincial airline in Hainan Province.

With assets in aviation, tourism and finance, HNA now employs more than 400,000 staff in a worldwide operation. It also has major stakes in Germany’s leading lender Deutsche Bank, hotel chain Hilton and a property portfolio in London.

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