Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha: A Legendary Figure in Leicester City's History

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There was nothing unusual about the football that had taken place on Saturday 27th October 2018. Leicester were involved in the day’s late kick-off versus West Ham, a somewhat frustrating affair for t..

A late goal from Wilfried Ndidi did help lift the mood at the King Power stadium but later in the evening the club would be rocked by devastating scenes just outside the ground.

What was seen could scarcely be believed, a flaming wreckage in the adjacent car park, the helicopter belonging to Leicester chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. Amateur footage of the carnage sent shockwaves around the footballing world with players quick to send out their thoughts and prayers. A day later the club confirmed that chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, along with four others, tragically passed away in the incident. Here we take a look at the man who became such a much-loved figure at the club and the legacy he left behind.


Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha entered the world on April 4, 1958, in Bangkok, Thailand, not amidst the affluence he later achieved, but from more modest beginnings that required relentless dedication. His trajectory altered in 1989 with the establishment of his enterprise, King Power, securing its inaugural license to operate at Mahatun Plaza, marking the inception of the premier downtown duty-free shop. Following early triumphs, King Power expanded, securing exclusive rights six years later to oversee duty-free shops at Don Mueang Airport. The company's growth persisted, culminating in a significant milestone in 2004 when they gained approval to operate at Bangkok's new hub, Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Acknowledged for his accomplishments and philanthropy, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was honored with a new surname by King Bumibol, the then-longest-reigning monarch globally. Originally named Vichai Raksriaksorn, the Thai magnate's new appellation translated to 'light of progressive glory.' His amicable relations with the monarchy and political figures in Thailand played a pivotal role in his success. By 2018, his estimated wealth soared to approximately £2.9 billion, ranking him as the fifth wealthiest individual in his homeland.


Leicester City Takeover

In 2010, Milan Mandaric aimed to shift his football interests from Leicester City to Sheffield Wednesday. However, before completing his takeover of the Yorkshire club for a mere £1, he required a buyer for the Foxes. Asia Football Investments, spearheaded by Vichai's consortium, was willing to pay the demanded £39m for control of Leicester. Initially, this price seemed standard, but by 2018, the Foxes' value was estimated to be at least ten times this figure. Shortly after, Srivaddhanaprabha, then known as Raksriaksorn, was appointed chairman, with his son Aiyawatt assuming a prominent role.

Mandaric assured that the club would be in capable hands, praising the new Thai owners as "wonderful people" who cared for and could financially support the club.

Upon news of the financial injection, Leicester's fans cautiously welcomed the investment, anticipating increased funding for the club. Some, however, remained skeptical about how much of the investment would truly benefit the club. Concerns were also raised regarding controversies associated with King Power's dealings in Thailand.


Early Setbacks During Asia Football Investments' acquisition, Leicester City finished 10th in the second tier of English football. Although hopes were high for a playoff berth—achieved in the previous season—a poor run of form from February to April dashed those aspirations. Sven-Goran Eriksson, entrusted with managing Leicester and overseeing the expanded transfer budget, recruited pivotal players like Kasper Schmeichel, Danny Drinkwater, and Wes Morgan, instrumental figures in the Foxes' remarkable title triumph four years later.

Despite substantial summer spending, Eriksson's tenure yielded minimal results, leading to his dismissal after 13 matches. Nigel Pearson took the helm as manager, but improvements were scarce, with Leicester only managing to finish one place higher than the previous season.

Yet, the Thai owners remained supportive, and Pearson guided the team to the playoffs the following season. The playoffs, reminiscent of the 2010 heartbreak, ended in despair due to a missed penalty by Anthony Knockaert, allowing Watford to score in a dramatic last-minute twist.

The 2013-14 season saw Leicester secure automatic promotion, ending their five-year Championship tenure. Interestingly, Srivaddhanaprabha's funds were scarcely used, with Dean Hammond and Riyad Mahrez being the only non-free transfer signings. Leveraging the groundwork laid in prior seasons, Pearson's squad dominated the league, finishing nine points ahead of their closest rivals, Burnley.

Return to the Premier League Upon rejoining the English top flight, Leicester handed Pearson a substantial transfer budget to bolster their chances of survival. Most notably, Leonardo Ulloa and Andrej Kramaric were signed for a combined £17m, marking record-breaking transfers for the club. While Kramaric struggled to adapt, Ulloa's 11-goal contribution played a vital role in Leicester's survival. Additionally, the seasoned Argentina midfielder Esteban Cambiasso, at 34, proved influential.

Leicester became only the third team in Premier League history to evade relegation after being bottom at Christmas. A surprising resurgence in the latter half of the season secured their comfortable stay, providing Pearson with apparent job stability. Despite this incredible feat, the Leicester board dismissed Pearson, citing a breakdown in their professional relationship. Reports suggested Pearson's discontent with the termination of his son James' contract due to his involvement in a controversial incident during a tour in Thailand


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