ENGLAND (CelebrityAccess) Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, 60, owner of English Premier League soccer team Leicester City, died in a plane crash Sunday when his helicopter crashed and burst into flames shortely after taking off from the soccer field.
Srivaddhanaprabha bought the team in 2010 for $50 million. The team was a second-tier Championship and he funded the revival that peaked when the 5,000-to-1 outsiders produced one of the greatest upsets in sports history when it won the Premier League in 2016.
“I always believed in the power of our spirit,” Vichai said in 2016. “It drove us to reach the Premier League, it gave us the strength to stay in the Premier League, and now it has inspired us to win the Premier League.
“It is a spirit that has spread beyond Leicester, taking our story to the hearts of the world. Our spirit exists because of the love we share for each other and the energy it helps to create, both on and off the pitch, and in the years to come, it will continue to be our greatest asset.”
The team played against West Ham on Saturday before the helicopter took off from the center circle. It cleared the roof before plummeting to the ground in a nearby carpark. The next game, scheduled for Tuesday, has been postponed.
Vichai began his career with one shop and built Thailand’s massive King Power duty-free chain as the country became a tourism destination. He was known to arrive and leave the games via helicopter.
“The world has lost a great man,” Leicester said in a statement. “A man of kindness, of generosity and a man whose life was defined by the love he devoted to his family and those he so successfully led.”
Two members of Vichai’s staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, also died along with pilot Eric Swaffer and passenger Izabela Roza Lechowicz, according to the Associated Press.
The stadium the team plays in, King Power Stadium, was renamed for the company after opening in 2002 as Walkers Stadium.