China's HNA Group announces management reshuffle

BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) - China’s HNA Group [HNAIRC.UL] announced a management reshuffle on Thursday, in its latest move to calm worries about leadership at the conglomerate after the sudden death of its co-chairman, Wang Jian, during a business trip last month.

Current HNA Group Chief Executive Adam Tan has been named chairman of HNA International, a position previously held by Wang. Tan will continue to be the vice chairman and CEO of the group, it said in a statement.

The group also appointed Dennis Chen as its chief investment officer, succeeding James Wang. Chen will also serve as executive chairman of HNA International.

“These changes will help us meet our commitment to refocus around our core aviation and tourism and logistics businesses,” HNA Group Chairman Chen Feng said in the statement.

The move comes weeks after Wang died in France on July 3 from what local police said appeared to be an accidental fall from a wall while posing for a photograph.

Wang ran day-to-day operations and is widely regarded as the architect of HNA’s $50 billion acquisition spree that pushed the conglomerate into debt.

His sudden death has raised concerns about any potential directional change in company strategy and leadership amid the conglomerate’s efforts to slash its massive debt burden.

The 14.98 percent stake Wang owned in the conglomerate would be donated to a China-based charity foundation that is already among its top shareholders, HNA has previously said.

HNA is controlled by a New York-based foundation and a China-based charity, dubbed Hainan Province Cihang Charity Foundation, that together hold 52 percent of HNA shares.

The China-based charity which will take on Wang’s stake already controls 22.75 percent of the conglomerate.

The sprawling HNA, which accumulated assets ranging from a stake in Deutsche Bank to high-profile overseas properties in its shopping spree, has now shifted focus to its core airlines and tourism businesses.

HNA has agreed to sell $10 billion in real estate, has sold its stake in Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc and trimmed its Deutsche Bank stake.

Hainan Airlines Co, China’s fourth-largest airline which, is considered HNA’s crown jewel.

Capital control restrictions and a government order to rein in leverage and non-core businesses have also been weighing on HNA’s deal activity, and it has faced push-back in several countries due to concerns about its ownership structure.

In the statement, HNA also said Guang Yang has stepped down as president of HNA Group North America and as a trustee of the Hainan Cihang Charity Foundation. Yang was previously responsible for the group’s investments in the United States.

Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk, Kane Wu and Julie Zhu in Hong Kong; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Himani Sarkar