Leicester City Club confirms owner, 4 others die in helicopter crash

Leicester City owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Thai billionaire whose investment in the English soccer club led it to the most improbable championship in Premier League history, died in the helicopter crash on Saturday outside the stadium named after the duty-free retail giant that he founded.

Billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Leicester City Club Owner

Billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Leicester City Club Owner

The club on Sunday evening confirmed his death along with those of four others the night before.

The helicopter, which belonged to him, had followed its typical routine when he attended home games: taking off from the centre of the field to whisk him to London approximately an hour after the final whistle.

“The primary thoughts of everyone at the Club are with the Srivaddhanaprabha family and the families of all those on-board at this time of unspeakable loss,” the statement read.

By Sunday afternoon, hundreds of fans had laid scarfs and flowers outside the stadium.

The crash occurred moments after the helicopter lifted off the pitch at King Power Stadium, following the match between Leicester and West Ham.

The aircraft flew only a few hundred yards before spinning to the ground in one of the club’s parking lots. Images from the crash showed the helicopter lying on its side engulfed in flames.

Srivaddhanaprabha, 60, ran King Power for nearly 30 years, growing it from a single shop in Bangkok into a powerhouse with exclusive rights to Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand’s biggest airport.

But perhaps his most visible global investment was in Premier League soccer.

Already an Anglophile with a passion for polo, he bought Leicester City in 2010 when it was still in the second tier of English soccer and invested over $100 million to clear its debts and haul it into the lucrative Premier League.

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It struggled during the 2014-15 campaign and required a miraculous late-season recovery to escape demotion back to the second tier, which only made what happened next even wilder.

Despite firing its manager before the start of the 2015-16 season and appointing Claudio Ranieri late in the summer, Leicester began to mount a title challenge.

British bookmakers had made the team 5,000-to-1 underdogs.

But despite a squad of diamonds in the rough, plus a payroll dwarfed by those of its richer rivals, the Foxes stuck around.

By the end of the season, they had held off the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City to win the first top-division title in the club’s 152-year history and complete the greatest upset that English soccer had ever seen.

The surreal season culminated with a celebration at King Power Stadium that featured tenor Andrea Bocelli serenading the team on the field.

Srivaddhanaprabha rewarded 19 members of his squad by gifting them all BMW sports cars.

“Struggling to find the right words,” Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy tweeted on Sunday.

“But to me, you are a legend, an incredible man who had the biggest heart, the soul of Leicester City Football Club.”

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