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  1. ITV Report

Club tells of ‘collective broken heart’ at owner’s death

File photo dated 21-05-2017 of Leicester City Vice-Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Photo: PA Wire/PA Images

Leicester City FC have confirmed with “the deepest regret and a collective broken heart” the death of its chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

The other four people who were on the helicopter when it crashed outside the King Power Stadium on Saturday also died.

It did not take long for Leicester fans to take the Thai self-made billionaire to their hearts after he bought the then-Championship club in 2010 – and helped lead them to a Premier League title six years later.

City started the victorious 2015-16 campaign as 5,000/1 outsiders for the title after almost being relegated in 2014/15.

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

He brought great riches to the club and the community, not just with the depth of his wealth but also in his bond with the team and the fans.

There have been plenty of handouts of free beer, water and cupcakes from Mr Srivaddhanaprabha to fans – usually as part of his birthday celebrations.

In a statement, the club said: “In Khun Vichai, the world has lost a great man. A man of kindness, of generosity and a man whose life was defined by the love he devoted to his family and those he so successfully led.

“Leicester City was a family under his leadership. It is as a family that we will grieve his passing and maintain the pursuit of a vision for the club that is now his legacy.”

Confirmation of his death brought an outpouring of tributes from a range of people.

Leicester City Council praised him for the “huge contribution” he made to the city, while player Jamie Vardy called him a “legend, an incredible man who had the biggest heart, the soul of Leicester City Football Club”.

Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan, West Ham, Tottenham, Nottingham Forest and Swansea City were some of the clubs that quickly passed on condolences.

Manchester United and England player Luke Shaw tweeted: “This is truly heart breaking, sending all my love and thoughts to everyone at @LCFC and especially Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s family what you created and achieved will never be forgotten a true hero has been lost.”

Earlier former England captain Rio Ferdinand had said his “prayers” were with Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s family.

Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan tweeted: “Some foreign owners use our Football clubs to make plenty of money … @LCFC has lost one who did the complete opposite … Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was an exception to the rule … #RIP.”

Mr Srivaddhanaprabha started a duty free shop in 1989, which eventually saw the King Power brand adorn airports across the country, and is now worth an estimated £3.9 billion, according to Forbes.

His affiliation with the Foxes began as part of a shirt sponsorship deal, before brokering a £39 million consortium takeover deal from Milan Mandaric.

Leicester won promotion back to the top flight in 2014, and Mr Srivaddhanaprabha, who became chairman in February 2011, pledged a commitment of £180 million to break into the top five and the ambitious target of European football over the next three years.

With the 2015/16 Premier League title putting the media-shy Thai tycoon firmly in the spotlight, he became known as a man not averse to public displays of emotions or generosity.

Ahead of the next campaign, 19 BMW cars, costing £100,000 each, were handed to players as a mark of appreciation for their achievements.

A keen polo player who helped establish the Thailand Polo Association, Mr Srivaddhanaprabha also completed the purchase of Belgian football club OH Leuven last year. The First Division B team is currently managed by former Foxes boss Nigel Pearson.

Mr Srivaddhanaprabha was married to Aimon and they had four children – Voramas, Apichet, Arunroong and Aiyawatt.

The new family surname of Srivaddhanaprabha was bestowed by King Bhumibol, former monarch of Thailand, in 2013.

It means “light of progressive glory” in Thai, as recognition of the business’s corporate and social responsibility programmes, including education and children’s health.