By Todd Ruiz and Jintamas Saksornchai
BANGKOK — The billionaire founder of Thailand’s King Power is believed to have died when his helicopter crashed Saturday night local time in England.
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, a powerful and politically savvy 60 year old, was believed to be leaving the King Power Stadium in Leicester, England, following a match in his personal helicopter when it went down for unknown reasons. No one is believed to have survived.
King Power has yet to release a statement on the fate of its chief executive, who founded the company back in 1989. The BBC reports it has confirmed with someone close to the family that he was aboard.
“We are assisting Leicestershire Police and the emergency services in dealing with a major incident at King Power Stadium,” Leicester City FC tweeted early this morning, Bangkok time. “The Club will issue a more detailed statement once further information has been established.” It is unclear who else was on the flight.
A Leicester City spokesman said: “We are assisting Leicestershire Police and the emergency services in dealing with a major incident at King Power Stadium. The Club will issue a more detailed statement once further information has been established.”
— Leicester City (@LCFC) October 27, 2018
Vichai bought then second-tier English football team Leicester City in 2010 and became its chairman the following year. The plucky team became a rags-to-riches story in one of football’s greatest upsets when it grabbed the Premier League title in the 2015-16 season. It has remained in the major league ever since.
Vichai celebrated the win by buying a fleet of 19 BMW i8s – each worth around USD$135,000 (4.74 million baht) — for the team’s players.
Forbes in 2017 ranked Vichai the fourth richest man of Thailand, with overall assets worth 155 billion baht.
King Power became the country’s largest duty-free retailer after it was granted the concession to Suvarnabhumi International Airport by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2004 after already obtaining the rights to Don Mueang Airport in 1995.
Last month, a court kicked out a 14 billion baht graft case against King Power and the national airport operator brought by a former official for allegedly failing to pay the government for the Suvarnabhumi franchise.
English Premier League club Leicester dealing with “major incident” after helicopter crashes outside stadium following matchhttps://t.co/QZy8NJ2YdP pic.twitter.com/zafWEHxuH7
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) October 27, 2018
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Correction: A previous version of this story linked a video which reportedly showed the moment Vichai entered the helicopter prior to the crash. In fact, no such video has surfaced.