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

Collateral Advantage: Opportunities for Asean nations in the trade war

Quinn Libson looks at how ASEAN countries could prosper despite the trade war between the US and China. Optimism about a potential trade deal between the United States and China faded in late May when President Donald Trump accused Beijing of backtracking on agreements. Trump followed up the accusation with a punitive tariff hike of more than double to 25% on Chinese goods worth $200 billion. He also threatened to increase tariffs on the remaining $300 billion worth of goods China exports to the US annually. Early in June, China responded by raising tariffs to 25% on many of the $60 billion worth US export products. When the world’s two largest economies exchange blows on goods worth billions of dollars, it’s impossible for other markets to avoid collateral consequences. Asean countries have not been spared the shocks of this trade dispute. But many are also hoping to leverage t


By Quinn Libson
June 10, 2019

Analysis, News

Read Straits Times’ Asia Report

Special Edition of Straits Times Asia Report available online for free. Straits Times have published the June Issue of their Asia Report online and it is available for free. It is a lovely magazine highlighting the growing tension between China and the US. To read it please click here. 


By Cod Satrusayang
June 5, 2019

Analysis, News

America’s sincerity in seeking a deal doubtful

A China Daily editorial analyses the new white paper released by China on trade war with US. As China’s White Paper on its trade negotiations with the United States, released on Sunday, shows, the US bears the full responsibility for the stalled trade talks since it is the one that has backtracked on its commitments-at least three times so far. In early February last year, the two sides reached a consensus on their trade frictions, with China agreeing to import more agricultural and energy products. However, the US announced later that month it was imposing 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. Talks in May then produced the consensus that they would not engage in a trade war, only for the US government to break that consensus 10 days later when it announced it would impose tariffs on more Chinese imports. On Nov 1, 2018, the leaders of China and the US reached an impo


By China Daily
June 4, 2019

Analysis, News

Pakistan refutes BBC story on rights abuses

BBC story on ‘Pakistan’s secret human rights abuses’ a pack of lies: ISPR. The military’s media wing on Monday issued a strongly worded response to a BBC story that documented alleged human rights abuses in the tribal areas of former Fata, and termed the report a “pack of lies”. The BBC story published on June 2, titled Uncovering Pakistan’s secret human rights abuses, looks into Pakistan’s long battle with militants as part of the post-9/11 “war on terror” and carries the accounts of locals as well as the top leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), Manzoor Pashteen. According to the rep


By Dawn
June 4, 2019

Analysis, News

Today’s US-China clash began at Tiananmen Square

Tuesday is the 30th anniversary of the crackdown. Tuesday marks the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. It was an event that profoundly shaped not only modern China, but also the US-China relationship. It is the odd anniversary that will pass virtually unobserved in the place where it had the greatest impact. Each year, around the anniversary, the government mobilizes an army of censors and trolls to stamp out any discussion of Tiananmen online. Yet for the world outside China, revisiting the Tiananmen Square massacre is crucial for two reasons. The bloody crackdown should remind us of the most fundamental political differences at the heart of today’s US-China competition. And it helps us understand the intimate connection between how China is governed at home and how it behaves on the global stage. First, Tiananmen highlights the ideological core of the US-China rivalry. Tension


By The Korea Herald
June 3, 2019

Analysis, News

Trump becomes first US leader to inspect Japanese warship

Analysts say its a show of solidarity with Abe. Visiting United States President Donald Trump became the first US Commander-in-Chief to step on board a Japanese warship on Tuesday (May 28), in what the two wartime foes held up as a sign of their ironclad bond as security allies today. Together with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Mr Trump inspected the JS Kaga at the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo. The JS Kaga is one of Japan’s two largest Izumo-class warships. It will modify these helicopter destroyers into its first aircraft carriers since World War II, in a significant defence upgrade that will allow it to handle short take-off and vertical landing F-35B fighter jets.


By The Straits Times
May 29, 2019