Delight To Despair: Thais Stunned By Death Of Billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha

Updated: 29 October 2018 23:03 IST

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, 60, died when his helicopter plummeted into a car park outside the King Power stadium.

Delight To Despair: Thais Stunned By Death Of Billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was a regular at Leicester matches. © AFP

Stunned Thais on Monday digested news of the death of billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, whose dazzling success as owner of Leicester City showered pride and prestige on the kingdom. Vichai, 60, died when his helicopter plummeted into a car park outside the King Power stadium shortly after his side's 1-1 draw with West Ham on Saturday. For most of his life the publicity-shy duty-free magnate, Thailand's fifth richest man who spun billions from his King Power monopoly, was not a household name in his native country.

That changed with Leicester City's odds-defying English Premier League title in 2016, the unlikeliest of victories in the world's most watched football league that has gone down in footballing lore.

While he continued to avoid interviews, Vichai was a regular at Leicester matches and his face -- and the King Power brand -- became synonymous across a football-mad country with the success of Thai business overseas.

Thais on Monday awoke to confirmation of his death -- an abrupt end to a global success story in a sometimes inward-looking country.

"He was an inspiration to Thais because he's well known and very successful internationally," Chamat Uchukanokkul, 39, told AFP as he travelled to work.

"He showed that we can do anything if we set our minds to do it."

The well-connected businessman was renowned for his agility in picking through Thailand's complicated politics -- backstage plotting, coups, short-lived civilian governments and legal complications.

Exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who gave Vichai his duty-free monopoly, paid tribute to the entrepreneur on Monday, describing him as "a great businessman".

"I am honoured and blessed to have known Vichai for all these years and am deeply saddened by the loss that his family has encountered," the billionaire wrote in a Facebook post.

"His memory will live on forever in the lives of so many that he has touched", he added.

Influential political veteran Anutin Charnvirakul described his long-time friend as a "Big Brother" and "an idol."

"He was not a scion of a rich family but a real fighter... he became hugely successful in a short space of time," he told AFP.

"He was definitely a role model for the new generation, generous and loved by his peers.

"He bought this little football club and helped it to win the championship. He cared."

Leicester City were unknown to many in the Southeast Asian country before their breakout 2016 season.

But as they closed in on the title the country rallied around a Thai success story, with hundreds attending fan screenings hosted by the company, complete with free beer and food.

At King Power's downtown Bangkok mall most staff were tight-lipped on Monday -- a sign of the sharply-hierarchical company which owns the duty-free concessions at airports and key tourist cities in one of the world's most visited countries.

But one saleswoman, who declined to be named, said she cried as the news of Vichai's death broke early Monday.

"I've only worked here a year... but I felt he was kind," she said, explaining Vichai would often walk the sales floor greeting staff as he did his rounds.

"He was a man we must admire... though his last breath is over, his reputation will be remembered forever," Chutitorn Apichainan posted on the Leicester City official fan Facebook page for Thailand.

British police named the four other crash victims as Nursara Suknamai -- an actress and a runner-up in Miss Thailand Universe in 2005 -- and Kaveporn Punpare, both members of Vichai's staff, pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz.

Comments
Topics : Leicester City English Premier League Football
Highlights
  • Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, 60, died in a helicopter crash
  • Thais on Monday awoke to confirmation of his death
  • Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was Thailand's fifth richest man
Related Articles
Leicester Pay Emotional Tribute To Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Newcastle Boost Survival Bid
Leicester Pay Emotional Tribute To Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Newcastle Boost Survival Bid
Leicester City To Pay Heartfelt Tribute To Thai Owner Killed In Helicopter Crash
Leicester City To Pay Heartfelt Tribute To Thai Owner Killed In Helicopter Crash
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's Helicopter Crash Will Stay With Me Forever, Says Kasper Schmeichel
Leicester City Footballers In Bangkok To Pay Respects To Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha
Leicester City Footballers In Bangkok To Pay Respects To Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha
Watch: Referee Books Leicester Midfielder For Paying "Emotional Tribute" To Late Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Gets Slammed On Twitter
Watch: Referee Books Leicester Midfielder For Paying "Emotional Tribute" To Late Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Gets Slammed On Twitter
Advertisement