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Leicester City owner confirmed dead in helicopter crash

Leicester: Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Thai billionaire who stunned the sports world by taking perennially mediocre Leicester City to the pinnacle of English soccer in 2016, died when his helicopter crashed shortly after taking off from the club's King Power Stadium over the weekend, the club has confirmed. He was 60.

The crash happened about 45 minutes after he'd been watching his team play West Ham in the English Premier League on Saturday. The chopper got into problems shortly after take-off and slammed into a nearby parking lot, bursting into a ball of flames.

Leicester City's chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was one of five people to die when his helicopter crashed near the King Power Stadium on Saturday.CreditA

"The world has lost a great man," the club said. "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."

The club did not name the other four victims but it is understood they are one of Vichai's two daughters, two pilots and a fifth person whose identity was not immediately known.

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha died when his helicopter crashed shortly after taking off from the club's King Power Stadium over the weekend, the club has confirmed. He was 60.

Born Vichai Rakriaksorn in Bangkok, he amassed a $US3.3 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His wealth derived mostly from King Power Group, which he founded in a shopping mall in 1989 and developed into Thailand's biggest duty-free company thanks to the country's tourism boom.

Vichai's son Aiyawatt is chief executive officer, other children are part of the executive team and his widow Aimon is the vice-chairman, the firm's website shows.

Vichai also owned a minority stake of Thai AirAsia, a unit of the region's largest discount carrier. The family name Srivaddhanaprabha was bestowed by Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and loosely translates as "light of progressive glory".

A man prays next to floral tributes outside Leicester City's stadium.Credit:AP

Outside Asia, he's best known for gambling on a mediocre English soccer club and transforming it briefly into a championship-winning team.
Vichai bought Leicester City for about £39 million in 2010 when it was struggling outside the top tier and wasn't particularly fashionable. In a demonstration of his early ambition, Vichai convinced former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson to manage the team and arrest its slide.

Within six years, Leicester had served up one of the more improbable fairytales in sports when the team, known as the Foxes and then under manager Claudio Ranieri, stunned the world by winning the richest league in soccer.

They did so on a modest payroll and in style, finishing the season 10 points ahead of second-placed Arsenal after losing just three of their 38 matches.

In addition to the silverware, Vichai endeared himself to the city's fans by trying to attend every home game and donating to local causes.

He gave £2 million towards a new children's hospital, another million to the city's university medical department and put some money into the fund to rebury King Richard III in Leicester Cathedral. And on a more personal level, he handed out 60 free season tickets to fans to mark his 60th birthday in April this year.

Former Foxes striker Emile Heskey was one of several footballers past and present to express his sadness, tweeting soon after it was first reported that Vichai was on board on the helicopter.

Vichai's sports empire also extended to Belgium, with the purchase of Oud-Heverlee Leuven in the country's second tier, and to horses.

He was a big supporter of polo in Thailand and recently made inroads into British horseracing with his King Power Racing team displaying the same blue-and-white colors as Leicester City Football Club.

Leonardo, the company that makes the helicopter that crashed, said it was ready to support investigators to determine the cause of the accident. It said this was the first accident involving an AW169.

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