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

How governments can manage the risks of digitalisation without hindering innovation

The world is moving towards an algorithmic economy, which depends largely on data and data-driven innovation. The United States Embassy in Hà Nội yesterday held a discussion on data mobilisation and how authorities can manage the risks of digitalisation without hindering innovation. The speaker of the event, Daniel Castro, vice president at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and director of ITIF’s Center for Data Innovation, said in the past 10 years, the world had been shifting to a data-based economy. “The economy has been focused on mobile technologies, big data analytics technologies, and social networks,” Castro said. In the latest trend, the world is now moving towards an algorithmic economy with new technologies such as AI, the Internet of Things, blockchain, etc. In this stage, the economy depends largely on data and data-driven innovation, whi


By Viet Nam News
October 11, 2019

Analysis, News

Tapanuli orangutan on list of world’s most endangered primates

Pushed by the aggressive encroachment of forests, Indonesia’s endemic great ape, the Tapanuli orangutan, is officially among the world’s most endangered primates as fewer than 800 currently exist in the wild. The species was included in a report titled “Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2018-2020” released on Monday, which cited ongoing forest conversions and increasing human-orangutan interactions as the main factors that place the arboreal mammals in danger. Global Wildlife Conservation’s great ape conservation director Dirck Byler said he was not surprised by the Tapanuli orangutan’s inclusion in the report because of the many threats to its small population. “As the home of the Tapanuli orangutan and two other orangutan species, Indonesia has the chance now to become a leader in great ape conservation by implementing the kinds of measures that will not only


By The Jakarta Post
October 11, 2019

Analysis, News

Which way are Sino-US ties headed?

The US has listed China as a strategic competitor and the Sino-US economic/trade conflict is a clear manifestation of this categorization. Bidding farewell to 40 years of friendship, some in the United States want to replace cooperation with competition as the tone of Sino-US ties in future. At present, with right-wing conservatism and nationalism peaking, the US has listed China as a strategic competitor, and the recent Sino-US economic and trade conflict is a clear manifestation of this accusation. The US has adopted a flurry of radical and inappropriate policies and measures to counter China, exposing Washington’s short-term overanxiety. Whenever the US calms down, Beijing and Washington will return to seeking rational major power relations, but it will take time. The US should not hold the unrealistic expectation that trade negotiations can resolve all major issues and concerns between the


By China Daily
October 9, 2019

Analysis, News

Drones show extent of Thailand’s elephantine tragedy: 11 pachyderms died in waterfall plunge

It has now emerged from drone footage that 11 elephants who fell into the waterfall trying to help each other died. Drones have located the bodies of 11 elephants that fell into the water at Haew Narok falls in Khao Yai National Park on October 5, while only two of the herd have survived. A barricade will be erected to prevent other wildlife from falling in, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa. “At this point we can confirm that this herd had 13 elephants, 11 fell into the waterfall and died, while only 2 survived and are back in the forest,” Varawut said. Five elephant bodies were found on October 5, with another five later located by the drones along the river. A press conference confirming the extent of the tragedy was held on Tuesday morning at Khao Yai National Park’s Nern Hom checkpoint, hosted by Nakhon Nayok governor Nattaphong Sirichana and Prachin B


By The Nation (Thailand)
October 9, 2019

Analysis, News

Manila is third, Beijing second among 56 cities with lowest quality of life: Deutsche Bank

Based on its 2019 report, Deutsche Bank said the top three cities with the lowest quality of life were Lagos, Nigeria; Beijing, China; and Manila, Philippines.  Manila ranked poorly at third place among 56 cities worldwide with the lowest quality of life, research published by Deutsche Bank has shown. Based on its May 2019 report, Deutsche Bank said the top three cities with the lowest quality of life were Lagos, Nigeria; Beijing, China; and Manila, Philippines.  On the other hand, the cities with the highest quality of life, according to the research, were Zurich, Switzerland; Wellington, New Zealand; and Copenhagen, Denmark.  Manila also lagged in other indices from Deutsche Bank’s report, ranking 53rd in terms of purchasing


By Philippine Daily Inquirer
October 8, 2019

Analysis, News

Securing the future of quality journalism

Credible content that audiences value and new sources of revenue needed to sustain newsrooms. The poster boy for robust health in the media industry used to have decidedly Indian features. Even as their counterparts elsewhere languished, Indian media houses were once busy launching new titles, snapping up journalists and boosting orders for newsprint, bucking global trends several years ago. Today, sadly, a pall appears to have settled over many of these newsrooms. “We need to change… we are playing catch-up now,” one top Indian editor told me at a dinner on the sidelines of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers’ (Wan-Ifra) India Conference last Wednesday. Lacklustre advertising during recent festive seasons has taken a toll on print advertising revenues, as circulations slide, he says. Like many others, he laments


By Asia News Network
September 23, 2019