Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's son Aiyawatt to inherit father's mantle in business and sport

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's son Aiyawatt to inherit father's mantle in business and sport
PHOTO: AFP

The reins of King Power Group's multi-billion-baht business empire is now in the hands of 32-year-old Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, whose father Vichai was killed in a helicopter crash in the UK over the weekend.

With his father gone, Aiyawatt has to take over as the CEO of King Power Group as well as chairman of the English Premier League football club Leicester City. Inheriting a highly lucrative monopoly in airport duty-free operations across the country, including the massive one at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Aiyawatt will find himself facing multiple challenges. His first challenge will be to win a new concession for Suvarnabhumi when the current 10-year licence expires in 2020.

Airports of Thailand (AOT) is under increasing pressure to boost competition in the bidding process for duty-free outlets.

Thai billionaire Vichai's family visits Leicester crash site

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    Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, son of Leicester City's owner Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, clasps his hands together as he stands infront of Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel amongst tributes left for Vichai and four other people who died when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed as it left the ground after the match on Saturday, in Leicester, Britain, October 29, 2018.

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    The family of the late Thai billionaire boss of Premier League club Leicester City paid tribute to him on Monday at the site where his helicopter crashed as investigators began examining the aircraft's black box.

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    Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha (right) and Aimon Srivaddhanaprabha, the son and wife of Leicester City's Thai chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who died in a helicopter crash at the club's stadium, look at the floral tributes left to the victims of the crash.

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    Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's son and widow were seen laying a wreath among a sea of tributes from fans outside the stadium, including flowers, football scarves and Buddhist statues.

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    Vichai's son Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, known as "Top", is chief executive of his father's duty-free empire King Power and also vice-chairman of the football club Vichai bought in 2010.

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    Along with other family members and executives from King Power, the two were also seen laying wreaths at the crash site in a car park near the stadium, which is still cordoned off as air accident investigators pick through the wreckage.

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    Five people died in Saturday's crash, including also two members of Vichai's staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and the pilot's girlfriend, Izabela Roza Lechowicz, also a pilot.

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    Nursara Suknamai was an actress and a runner-up in Miss Thailand Universe in 2005.

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    The reins of King Power Group's multi-billion-baht business empire is now in the hands of 32-year-old Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha.

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    With his father gone, Aiyawatt has to take over as the CEO of King Power Group as well as chairman of the English Premier League football club Leicester City.

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    However, it remains unclear if Aiyawatt has his father's mettle, especially in terms of having a formidable wheeler-dealer attitude, even though he has been groomed over the past several years for these new challenges.

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    Fans laid down hundreds of football scarves, shirts and flowers outside Leicester City's stadium on Sunday, a day after the club's Thai billionaire owner died in a helicopter crash just outside the ground.

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    Fans streamed to the stadium to express their gratitude long before official confirmation that the 60-year-old businessman, who frequently flies to and from Leicester's home games by helicopter, was aboard the aircraft.

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    Four other people on the helicopter, including two members of Vichai's staff, were also killed in the crash.

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    Residents remembered a determined and charismatic figure who was the driving force behind a footballing feat when the club rose through the ranks to win the top spot two years ago.

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    Many also remembered the owner's generosity to fans -- free breakfasts at away matches and free beers on his birthday -- as well as to the city, including a donation to the local hospital.

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    Vichai also brought Thailand greater recognition in the international sporting world, developing the Southeast Asian country's football scene.

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    Kanti Patel, one of the first supporters to come to pay tribute in the early hours of Sunday, told AFP: "It means a lot to me, he did a lot for the club. "I can't get over it. Since him being with the club the club has done well, and I don't know what's going to happen now."

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    Another fan, Nathavut Sirimontaporn, said Vichai had brought "benefits" to Thai football. "I think having him as an owner of the Leicester City made people know Thailand more," he said.

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    A man kneels with a statue of the Buddha and devotional scripture in front of the floral tributes gathered outside Leicester City Football Club's King Power Stadium in Leicester, eastern England, on October 28, 2018

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    Pedestrians walk past a mural showing Leicester City Football Club's Thai chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha near De Montfort University in Leicester, eastern England, on October 28, 2018.

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The Thailand Research Development Institute, for instance, has recommended that AOT split the massive duty-free master concession into several smaller concessions for each product category, so as to boost revenues for the state and improve services to more than 40 million tourists per year.

Worawoot Ounjai, president of the Thai Retailers Association, had said earlier that the government needed to improve transparency and fairness in the terms of reference, which will be used to select bidders for the airport duty-free shopping concessions.

AOT is expected to invite bids later this year or next year - well before the current concession ends.

Apart from the lucrative Suvarnabhumi concession, King Power also runs duty-free shops at Bangkok's Don Mueang Airport as well as at Chiang Mai, Phuket and Hat Yai airports.

It has also set up several duty-free outlets outside the airports, including in Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya, with the largest being King Power's branch in Bangkok's Soi Rang Nam. Positioned as a global player in tourism and duty-free shopping, the group has also invested in the Bangkok Pullman Hotel and King Power Mahanakorn, a high-rise hotel and Bangkok observation centre, as well as in a state-of-the-art theatre.

According to Forbes Thailand magazine, Vichai was listed as the ninth richest person in Thailand in 2015 when his net worth was estimated at Bt83 billion (S$3.45 billion). The following year, he rose by two ranks with an estimated net worth of Bt116 billion. Vichai rose to the No 5 slot in 2018 with an estimated net worth of Bt162.1 billion.

However, it remains unclear if Aiyawatt has his father's mettle, especially in terms of having a formidable wheeler-dealer attitude, even though he has been groomed over the past several years for these new challenges.

 

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