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Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Thai Billionaire Who Changed Leicester City

Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha tragically died in a helicopter crash at the club’s King Power Stadium on Saturday.

From humble beginnings, to a billionaire Premier League-winning club owner, he led a truly remarkable life.

He was born Vichai Raksriaksorn in Bangkok on April 4 1958, and went on to become Thailand’s fifth-richest man.

He started up a duty free shop in 1989, which eventually saw the King Power brand adorn airports across the country, and was estimated to be worth around 4.9 billion US dollars (£3.9 billion), according to Forbes.

Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s affiliation with Leicester City began as part of a shirt sponsorship deal, before brokering the £39million consortium takeover deal from Milan Mandaric.

The Foxes won promotion back to the Premier League in 2014 – and with it secured the riches of modern-day football.

At the time, Srivaddhanaprabha, who became chairman in February 2011, pledged a commitment of some £180million to break into the top five and the somewhat ambitious target of European football over the next three years.

Quoted by the Wall Street Journal when looking back on their unexpected success, his son, Aiyawatt, Leicester’s vice-chairman, said: “When we bought the team, we had so many plans.

“If you ask whether we believed the team would become the Premier League champion when we bought it, the truth is at that point we didn’t dare to think so.”

Claiming the 2015-16 Premier League title in a quite remarkable campaign, with Claudio Ranieri’s men maintaining consistency while their ‘bigger’ rivals all faltered, would bring the spotlight firmly on to the media-shy Thai tycoon – and find him a man not adverse to public displays of emotions or indeed generosity.

Ahead of the next campaign, which would see a first Champions League adventure, some 19 BMW i8s cars, valued at £100,000 each, were handed out to players as a mark of appreciation for their achievements.

Very much a family man, his son Aiyawatt was also known as “top” when in less formal surroundings at the club.

The blue helicopter taking them to and from the King Power Stadium was a regular feature – as has been free beer and donuts for Foxes fans at their home ground, while also regularly subsidising away travel.

Foxes Trust chairman Ian Bason said in a 2016 interview with The Guardian: “It would be hard to criticise him at all.

“Other than what the club has actually achieved, (the owners) have always listened to the fans. Vichai has always respected the heritage of the club.”

The impact of Leicester’s success has seen Foxes shirts become a sought-after commodity back in Srivaddhanaprabha’s homeland, where, in December 2009, King Power received the royal warrant from the King of Thailand.

Married to Aimon, the couple had four children – Voramas, Apichet, Arunroong and Aiyawatt.

The new family surname of Srivaddhanaprabha was bestowed by King Bhumibol in 2013.

It means ‘light of progressive glory’ in Thai and was done in recognition of the business’s many corporate and social responsibility programmes, including education, charity work, children’s health issues as well as sports and Thai culture.

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