The elaborate funeral of Leicester City’s Thai owner and duty-free mogul Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was set to begin at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok Saturday, with members of Thailand’s elite expected to pay tribute to the well-connected billionaire.
Vichai, 60, and four other people died in a horrific helicopter accident moments after they departed the club’s pitch a week ago, bringing an abrupt end to the fairytale life of Thailand’s fifth-richest man.
He rose from having a single store in Bangkok to owning the duty-free King Power empire, whose shops are ubiquitous in Thailand’s tourist-heavy airports.
Using the profits from his monopoly Vichai snagged Leicester City and helped turn it from an unremarkable English club to a shock winner of the Premier League title in 2016.
Thais were stunned by the tragic demise of a man known mainly for one business success after another but who owed much of his ascent to canny navigation of Thailand’s unpredictable politics and elite society.
That included the monarchy, links reflected in the name of his company and the former king’s act of royally bestowing on Vichai a surname that translates to “auspicious and prosperous light”.
Vichai’s body was flown back to Thailand and taken to Wat Thepsirin on Friday where prominent individuals close to the family wore black for a private gathering ahead of the official ceremony which starts Saturday evening and lasts until November 9.