Central group patriarch dies | Bangkok Post: business

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Central group patriarch dies

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Vanchai Chirathivat, the head of one of Thailand's richest business families, died early Saturday from prostate cancer. He was 84. 

Vanchai, the founder and chairman of Central Group of Companies, passed away peacefully at 7.19am with his children and grandchildren by his bedside at Bumrungrad International Hospital. He had been admitted to the hospital for cancer treatment almost two weeks ago.A royally sponsored bathing rite was being held on Saturday at 5pm at Wat Thepsirin in Bangkok. The funeral rites will be held until Friday.Starting from a small family shop in Bang Khunthian in the 1940s, Vanchai oversaw the development of a retailing and hospitality conglomerate that includes Central Department Store and the Centara Hotels and Resorts group.The patriarch of the Chirathivat clan became the chairman of Central Group in 1992 after his eldest brother Samrit died.The success of the Central businesses in Thailand and internationally has helped make the Chirathivat family the second wealthiest in Thailand, with an estimated net worth of US$6.9 billion in 2012, according to Forbes magazine.Vanchai Chirathivat was born in Bangkok to Tiang Chirathivat (1905–68), who had migrated from Hainan island in southern China. Tiang had three wives and 25 children; today they and their descendants continue to jointly own and manage the Central Group.The second child of eight, Vanchai worked in his grandfather's grocery store and later in the family's own shop called Kheng Seng Lee in Bang Khunthian, selling coffee, food and construction materials, and also offering tailoring and barbering.A good student at Assumption School where he learned business and English, he continued his studies at Assumption Commercial College and worked at nights and holidays at his cousin's petrol station in Suriwong.His father began selling imported books in the shop, which was moved in 1945 to Sri Phaya and named Central Trading.In a profile in GH Bank Housing Journal in January 2008, Vanchai said he and his older brother Samrit, who had worked in an international shipping company, took a special interest in the book business. They started selling books and international magazines such as Life and Vogue. The business was a first for Thailand and became very profitable.Attracted by the product advertisements he saw in the magazines, Vanchai began importing clothing, accessories and cosmetics for sale. In 1947, he leased a two-storey shophouse to sell imported goods,...

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