See More on Facebook

Analysis, News

Grieving company pays tribute to founder Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha

Thai billionaire who built duty-free empire lauded for his kindness, good heart.


Written by

Updated: October 30, 2018

Tourists chatting in Mandarin roam the gleaming corridors of this retail haven, browsing the Breitlings and Rolexes after picking up vacuum-packed banana chips. Workmen potter around the domed duty-free complex in downtown Bangkok.

Except for the black-clad reporters camped out in front – and two bouquets placed on its grass verge – there were few clues yesterday that duty-free giant King Power had just lost its chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash in Leicester, England.

In a statement issued yesterday, King Power thanked the public for its support. “The world has lost someone who was kind and always had a good heart, one who was generous, one who devoted his whole life to his family and others, and who sacrificed himself for our beloved Thailand,” it said.

“Under his leadership, all of us at King Power always felt at one with his family. At this time of difficulty, we share the grief of the Srivaddhanaprabha family.”

Outside the team’s King Power Stadium, Mr Vichai’s son and widow laid a wreath as tributes poured in from fans.

Four other people died in last Saturday’s crash, including two members of Mr Vichai’s staff – Ms Nursara Suknamai and Mr Kaveporn Punpare – pilot Eric Swaffer and his girlfriend Izabela Roza Lechowicz, also a pilot. Ms Nursara was an actress and a runner-up in Miss Thailand Universe in 2005.

British investigators said they have recovered the helicopter’s flight data recorder.

Mr Vichai, said by Forbes to be worth US$4.5 billion (S$6.2 billion), built his fortune from a duty-free monopoly at Thailand’s international airports. He bought Leicester City Football Club in 2010 and was credited with turning the second-tier outfit into a Premier League champion. Leicester City’s 2016 stunning victory whipped up Thai interest in the club. Its merchandise is displayed prominently at Suvarnabhumi airport, where King Power is the master concessionaire for commercial space.

A King Power employee, who declined to give her name, told The Straits Times outside the complex: “He didn’t come into this building often, but every time he did everyone was excited.

“He was always smiling. Though he barely talked to us, we could feel he was a kind boss. We are paid well and treated well here.”

Mr Panumet Tanraksa, 47, a Manchester United fan who began supporting Leicester City recently, regards Mr Vichai as an “idol”.

“He not only was the billionaire who owned an English football team, but he also had a football academy that allowed Thai youth to train in England,” he said.

“Many Thai billionaires have bought teams or shares in English football teams but none of them have been as successful as Khun Vichai.”

The 60-year-old Mr Vichai rarely gave media interviews, was well-connected and influential. In 2009, King Power was granted a royal warrant, something conferred on companies deemed to have made great contributions to the nation. In 2012, then King Bhumibol Adulyadej bestowed on him his current family name, which replaced his former surname, Raksriaksorn.

In the past decades, the company has attracted some controversy, with critics raising questions about the manner in which its concessions are granted and run.

Last year, then anti-graft official Charnchai Issarasenarak filed a private lawsuit against King Power and executives from state-owned Airports of Thailand (AOT), which operates the country’s airports.

He accused King Power of under-declaring its revenue and not paying the state 14 billion baht (S$583 million) in levies. Last month, a Thai court dismissed the case on the basis that Mr Charnchai could not sue because he was not an affected party.

King Power’s concession at Suvarnabhumi airport expires in 2020. The AOT is expected to hold an auction for the concession later this year.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, News

Japan to develop long-range standoff missile

Japan is planning on developing long range anti-ship missiles for self defense purposes. The Defense Ministry has made a policy decision to develop the nation’s first domestically manufactured air-to-ship long-range cruise missile, to be mounted on Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets and capable of attacking a warship from outside of an adversary’s range. The new missile, which is to be developed in response to the rapid advance in the strike capability of the Chinese Navy, will reinforce Japan’s deterrence by extending the shooting range to more than 400 kilometers. The ministry aims to put the new missile into practical use within a few years, government sources said. The new missile is considered to be of a “standoff defense capability,” enabling attacks from beyond the range of adversaries. Standoff defense capability was stipulated in the new Nation


By The Japan News
March 18, 2019

Analysis, News

Bumpy path ahead for denuclearization

US, DPRK made no concessions during latest Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi. A second summit between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, concluded abruptly in Vietnam a week ago, leaving researchers and diplomats with much to decipher. Nonetheless, they seem to agree that a long, bumpy road to denuclearization lies ahead. However intricate the reasons, the breakdown of the Feb 27-28 summit between US President Donald Trump and the DPRK’s top leader Kim Jong-un was widely believed to have been triggered by the differences on how far Pyongyang was willing to limit its nuclear program and the degree of Washington’s willingness to ease or even lift sanctions, Reuters reported on Wednesday. To compound the issue, Trump said on Wednesday that he would be “very disappointed” in Kim if reports about rebuilding at a rocket launch site in the DP


By China Daily
March 12, 2019

Analysis, News

India-Pakistan escalation gives edge to Modi in re-election bid

We take a look at the factors that will influence the upcoming Indian elections. The adage that no Indian election is fought solely on economic issues has hit home with a vengeance across political parties as the countdown begins for the 2019 General Election in India scheduled for April-May. In the aftermath of the 14 February terrorist attack on para-military forces in Pulwama, India-administered Kashmir, which was claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammad and New Delhi’s unleashing of airstrikes against the terror outfit’s largest training camp deep inside Pakistani territory in response, electoral strategies are hurriedly being redrawn. What seemed to have been shaping as a poll campaign around bread-and-butter issues has now been infused with a strong dose of national security. Terrorism emanating from Pakistan, relations between India’s Hindu/Indic majority and its minority communities, and var


By Asia News Network
March 12, 2019

Analysis, News

Sino-US clash ‘won’t get you anywhere’

Op Ed in China Daily talks about possible economic ramification of US – Chinese confrontation. A confrontational China-US relationship does not benefit anyone because the interests of the two countries are deeply interwoven, Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the annual session of the National People’s Congress, said in Beijing on Monday. Asked at a news conference about Beijing’s response to Washington’s increasingly hard-line policy toward China, Zhang said, “It won’t get you anywhere to deal with new problems in the context of globalization with a Cold War mentality.” Zhang, a former vice-minister of foreign affairs, said China has a consistent and clear policy toward the United States. China is dedicated to having a relationship based on nonconflict, nonconfrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, he said, adding that China will also firmly safeguard its s


By China Daily
March 6, 2019

Analysis, News

Where is North Korea’s covert uranium enrichment site?

The hidden sites are part of the reason the latest Trump – Kim summit failed. Speculation is running rampant as to the locations of the additional weapons-grade uranium-producing sites in North Korea that US President Donald Trump demanded be dismantled, met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s refusal, during their second summit in Vietnam last week. In Hanoi, Pyongyang offered to destroy its Yongbyon facilities that produce the two key materials used in making nuclear weapons — plutonium and highly enriched uranium — but Washington demanded an additional step beyond the dismantlement of the important nuclear site. After cut


By The Korea Herald
March 6, 2019

Analysis, News

China lowers growth target to slowest pace in nearly three decades

Trade wars and need to increase consumer base seen as reasons for lagging growth. China will aim for a lower growth target of between 6 to 6.5 per cent this year as the economy loses steam due to the ongoing trade war with the US and weaker domestic and global demand, according to the Straits Times. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is set to announce this when he delivers the government’s work report at the Great Hall of The People on Tuesday (March 5) morning. The world’s second largest economy expanded at its slowest pace in 28 years to grow at a clip of 6.6 per cent last year, down from 6.8 per cent the year before (2017). Economists expect growth this year to ease to below 6.3 per cent. In recent weeks, Beijing has loosened credit, rolled out


By ANN Members
March 5, 2019