A close relationship with King Bhumibol gave billionnaire Vichai a new last name SRIVADDHANAPRBHA for his business and charity work in Thailand. He had made most of his money through the KINGPOWER brand of companies that has a virtual monopoly at the countries duty free airports shops.
Born to Thai and Chinese parents, the much loved owner and chairman of Leicester City perished in a fireball on Saturday night along with co pilots and partners Eric Swaffer and Izabela Lechowitz and two employees in the £6.6 million Italian built WI69 Agusta-Westland helicoper in the blue and white LCFC colours as it spiralled out of control seconds after taking off from the centre circle of the King Power stadium,.
He purchased the failing club for £39 million from Milan Mandaric in 2010 and paid off the bills, made improvements and wanted success. He and younger son TOP had watched City win a League Cup final replay over Middlesborough and fell in love with The Foxes. They took two seasons to get out of The Championship, struggled the first year back up in the EPL, fired the coach Nigel Pearson and hired Claudio Ranieri. The 5,000 to 1 outsiders took the Premier League by storm and earned world wide fame and support. The next season they reached the quarter finals of the Champions League with the fans visiting such places as Bruges, Prague, Copenhagen, and Seville, finally bowing out to Atletico Madrid.
Players and staff were rewarded by top of the line blue BMW's and fans often received free beer, cup cakes, donuts,, and mince pies. The chairman not only tried to come to every home match but donated millions to local hospitals, Leicester University and other charities. He was the ideal foreign owner unlike many others such as the Glazers at Old Trafford. WHAT A DIFFERENCE, and beloved by more than just Foxes fans. Probably younger son Aiyawatt TOP will take over. He also bought Oud- Heverlee Leuven of Belgium a couple of years ago (now coached by Pearson), plus a string of race horses and the Ham Polo Club near London.
Young members of his Thailand Fox Hunt Football Academy were present on Sunday to pay their respects at the expanded fan zone of shirts, scarves, flowers and signs outside the stadium. Sunday League players from the Stoneygate Lions and other teams, still in their kit, joined the many supporters, with shirts and scarves from Chelsea, Roma, Nottingham Forest, Liverpool, West Ham United, Celtic, Wolves, Coventry City, Walsall, Leicester Tigers Rugby Club and many more.
I spent a year at graduate school in Leicestershire many years ago and also organized overseas tousr for the Thamrong Thai club from Bangkok and spent a week as their guest. As an amateur boxer my only knock-out defeat was to a Thai prince, who I later met in Thailand where he became defence minister.
A very sad day for the world wide football family indeed.