Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha: From humble beginnings to Premier League glory
Srivaddhanaprabha’s affiliation with the Foxes began as part of a shirt sponsorship deal.
When Thai self-made billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha completed a successful takeover at Leicester, you suspect delivering the Premier League title would not have been part of the business plan.
But his involvement in one of the most remarkable football stories of modern times endeared him to the fans – and the city – of Leicester.
Srivaddhanaprabha, who died at the age of 60 in a helicopter crash following the Foxes’ home game against West Ham on Saturday, was born Vichai Raksriaksorn in Bangkok on April 4, 1958.
From humble beginnings in a Thai-Chinese family, starting up a duty free shop in 1989, which eventually saw the King Power brand adorn airports across the country, he would go on to become Thailand’s fifth-richest man. His fortune is an estimated 4.9 billion US dollars (£3.9billion) by Forbes.
Srivaddhanaprabha’s affiliation with the Foxes began as part of a shirt sponsorship deal, before brokering a £39million consortium takeover deal of the then Championship club during 2010 from Milan Mandaric.
Leicester won promotion back to the Premier League in 2014 – and with it secured the riches of modern-day football.
At the time, Srivaddhanaprabha, who became chairman in February 2011, pledged a commitment of some £180million to break into the top five and the somewhat ambitious target of European football over the next three years.
The most ardent Leicester fan, though, could not have dreamed of what would happen next – even if taking on odds at 5,000-1.
Quoted by the Wall Street Journal when looking back on their unexpected success, his son, Aiyawatt, Leicester’s vice-chairman, said: “When we bought the team, we had so many plans.
“If you ask whether we believed the team would become the Premier League champion when we bought it, the truth is at that point we didn’t dare to think so.”
Claiming the 2015-16 Premier League title in a quite remarkable campaign, with Claudio Ranieri’s men maintaining consistency while their ‘bigger’ rivals all faltered, would bring the spotlight firmly on to the media-shy Thai tycoon – and find him a man not adverse to public displays of emotions or indeed generosity.
Ahead of the next campaign, which would see a first Champions League adventure, some 19 BMW i8s cars, costing a cool £100,000 each, were handed out to players as a mark of appreciation for their achievements.
Very much a family man, his son Aiyawatt was also known as “top” when in less formal surroundings at the club.
The blue helicopter taking them to and from the King Power Stadium was a regular feature – as has been free beer and donuts for Foxes fans at their home ground, while also regularly subsidising away travel.
Foxes Trust chairman Ian Bason said in a 2016 interview with The Guardian: “It would be hard to criticise him at all.
“Other than what the club has actually achieved, (the owners) have always listened to the fans. Vichai has always respected the heritage of the club.”
The impact of Leicester’s success has seen Foxes shirts become a sought-after commodity back in Srivaddhanaprabha’s homeland, where, in December 2009, King Power received the royal warrant from the King of Thailand.
A keen polo player, helping establish the Thailand Polo Association and owner of the Bangkok VR Polo Club, 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.
Married to Aimon, the couple had four children – Voramas, Apichet, Arunroong and Aiyawatt.
The new family surname of Srivaddhanaprabha was bestowed by King Bhumibol during 2013.
It means ‘light of progressive glory’ in Thai, as recognition of the business’s many corporate and social responsibility programmes, including education, charity work, children’s health issues as well as sports and Thai culture.